Retirement. Like most people who have been working since they finished school, I thought about how glorious retirement would be. No alarm clock for starters. Lots of time to travel, learn new things, read for unlimited periods of time, cook gourmet meals every day, do some volunteer work, maybe even improve my pitiful excuse for housekeeping skills. However I thought about it though, I thought about it being in the distant future.
I thought I would teach until I didn’t love it anymore, or until I felt that I had lost my edge. I never for one moment thought a virus and a pandemic would force me into the decision to not teach this year.
See what I did there? Even after 35 days since I called my principal with my decision, I still can’t force myself to say the “R” word. I haven’t posted much about it on my social media platforms, mostly because I am still rather heartbroken about it. I miss my colleagues, I miss the students, I miss the well-earned and well-spaced breaks throughout the school year, I miss summers off, and most of all, I miss feeling like I was making a difference, molding young minds, getting 8th graders ready to read and write for high school and college. I miss feeling important.
My parents were hard workers. My dad worked two jobs to put us through school. After a full day at work, he drove the late bus for my high school, which I found embarrassing at the time because he was stern with the football players and cheerleaders, universally known as the popular kids. Being in marching band and library club, I didn’t need anything else to distance me from the popular kids.
My mom was a legal secretary and renown for her typing skills, until the day they yanked her IBM Selectric away from her, replacing it with a word processor. She hated that machine with a passion. I think that’s when she started planning.
One morning, dressed and ready for work, my dad came into the living room to see my mom still in her duster and slippers (that’s what she called her robe, which she also used as an apron when she started cooking dinner still in her work clothes). He asked her why she wasn’t dressed for work, and her reply was, “I retired.” She said she had told him that she would retire on her birthday but never mentioned it again. No party, no send-off, just there one day and not there the next. I have no idea if she gave her boss notice or not. She was a tough-as-nails Scottish lass until the very end.
My dad worked until my mom’s health deteriorated to the point that he felt he needed to stay home with her. His heart wasn’t in it anymore any way, as his work, where he was a manager, had been farmed out to a third-party consultant, and boy, did they make a lot of changes. Unfortunately, my dad did not fit into their plans, which included a laptop and a cellphone, and they made life difficult for him. So, he retired. I tried to get him to pursue litigation for age discrimination but he would not have it. He said he was quite happy to sit on the sofa with my mom, remote control in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other.
I’ve been complimented in year-end reviews for my work ethic, particularly during the 20 years I worked in the legal field, where being a workaholic is as highly praised as a Harvard law degree. I know I got it from my parents, and maybe that’s why I’m struggling with the “R” word. If I were younger or in better physical shape I would be in my classroom right now, grading summer work, sanitizing everything after the kids left for the day, laughing with colleagues, doing lesson plans.
But, I’m not younger or in better shape, so I’m not teaching this year. I’m going to tutor students via Zoom. I’m going to write more, and hopefully get a piece of fiction published. I’m going to make dinner for my family every night. I’m going to walk my dog. I’m going to read A LOT more. I’m going to improve my knitting and crochet skills. I’m probably not going to improve my housekeeping skills, but hey, that was a pipe dream anyways. I’m just not going to say the “R” word. Not yet.