The Worst Thing About Retirement


There is a lot to be said for retirement.

And by that I mean, almost everything about retirement is great.

In my retirement, I’m able to sleep until 8 pretty much every day. I get to drink my coffee slowly, in my pajamas.

I haven’t worn “dress shoes” more than three times in the past four years, and those were all weddings.

When it’s rainy, I stay warm and dry in my house. When it’s snowy, I get to go out and play, then come right back in to the fire and the hot soup. I can cook to my heart’s content. I have the time and the mental freedom to learn new things, like my creaky violin and my rudimentary Italian.

I get the grandkids every day, and nothing in the world tops that.

Best of all, I NEVER have to go to meetings. There’s no paperwork and no deadlines (other than getting to the potty in time.)

Nirvana.

Almost.

Because there are a couple of downsides, too.

There’s the fact that it took less than a year for me to be completely out of touch with the newest thoughts about education. I feel left behind and dumped at the curb.

I often feel useless.

Now, don’t start with all that “but the kids need you!” stuff. I know that. My job as chief caregiver for Ellie and Johnny is the most important one I could have. I love them so much that sometimes it actually hurts. They love me back.

I know.

But every once in a while, I hear myself utter a sentence like, “Let’s make a playdoh castle for the trolls!” That’s when I wonder where my formerly intellectual self has gone.

I miss being a deep thinker. I miss having rich conversations with my colleagues about our students. I miss doing diagnostic work, and recognizing how a child was processing the world.

Most of all, I miss the feedback that came with my professional life. I miss the hugs from the kids. Those I miss the most. I miss their smiles, and the little shared jokes that came with every class.

When I was teaching, I knew that I was going a good job. I knew because the kids told me. “You’re a funny teacher!,” they’d tell me. Or, “You’re nice.” I had kids tell me that I helped them understand themselves better, or that I helped them learn how to make mistakes without feeling bad about themselves.

I miss the feedback.

A smile from a parent, a “thank-you” from a worried Mom, hearing a grandparent say, “I’ve heard so much about you!”

I once had a child bring me a rutabaga, six months after he’d graduated to the next grade. It was hilarious, a reminder of a joke that had lasted for his entire fifth grade experience.

I miss that.

And I truly miss the feedback from colleagues; working with very smart teachers and sharing lesson plans made me feel bright by reflection. Sometimes in a TEAM meeting, I’d realize that my observations helped to clarify how a child was struggling. And I knew I was good at the job.

I love retirement. I love being a stay home Nonni and baking cookies on cold days. I am happy to play with toddlers and to read familiar books while snuggled on the couch.

But once in a while, I’d love to have some of that positive feedback that used to make me feel smart.

At least there are no meetings.

“Oh, What is to Become of Me?”


I’m a mess.

I’m an old, cranky, Nonni of a mess.

I don’t seem to know what in the world I want anymore. Nothing satisfies me. Nothing much makes me say, “Hooray”.

OK. Except maybe the incredible blood orange cosmo that my dear friend Patty brought me on Friday. That made me say lots of happy words.

But the older I get, the more I seem to be turning into a toddler.

Let me explain it this way.

You know when a toddler demands that you give them a waffle with butter and syrup. So you make said waffle, put on said butter, smoosh on said syrup and present it. The toddler immediately screams, throws themself to the floor and yells “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Well. Yeah. That’s how I feel.

I had a very busy week with my best beloveds. They were both sick and I spent a lot of time making soup, urging them to eat soup, cleaning up the mess of the soup. We watched more episodes of “My Little Pony” than anyone should have to endure. I rocked, I soothed, I brought them to the doctor.

The house smelled of Vicks. I smelled of snot and drool.

I got to the weekend feeling pretty tired.

And it was a busy couple of days, too. Taxes were due, groceries were needed, laundry was piling up.

This meant, of course, than I spent most of Sunday chanting the international call of the teacher, “Snowdaysnowdaysnowdaysnowday.” I checked the “snowday calculator” every 15 minutes. I prayed for snow, even though I really hate snow.

I pictured myself spending a lovely, quiet Monday. At home with just the dogs. Reading. Eating a healthy salad while listening to classical music….

And the snow day was granted by the universe! I was elated!

From 9 to 11, I was just delighted.

Then I realized that I was eating chips out of the bag while sprawled in the recliner in my flannel pants. I was watching “PitBulls and Parolees”. I got up in disgust and made myself vacuum and dust. I went into the attic to put away the Valentine’s tchotchkes and take out the ceramic bunnies and eggs. I semi-decorated. I paid the bills.

It was noon.

I shoveled some snow. I checked Facebook and Twitter. I ate M&Ms.

More “PitBulls and Parolees”. I felt bloated. Bored. Stupid.

Now it’s almost dinner time.

I’m making a cheater’s pizza. You know, where you slice a loaf of garlic bread in half and slop on some toppings.

I tell ya.

There’s just no pleasing this old toddler of a granny.

I can’t wait for the kids to get here in the morning so I can make pancakes that no one will eat, get fingerpaint all over the walls, blow toddler noses 342 times, and then complain about how tired I am.

Do you feel bad for me yet?

“You know you missed us. Ellie will be a pitbull, and I’ll be a parolee.”

What I miss every day


 

imgres

“Hand in that homework or else!”

I retired from teaching almost two years ago.

It wasn’t exactly a planned retirement. In fact, the decision came in mid May of my last year. It came after my evaluating administrator made it real clear that I was going to be rated as a bad teacher, even though for the previous 21 years I had only had great evaluations.

It came after the Principal at my school accidentally let it slip that I was on his short list of “old teachers who need to be eased out the door.”

The timing for me was good. My first child, my daughter, my teaching colleague, was due to deliver her first child. The problem of finding good childcare was on all of our minds.

When I realized that I was going to be the target of intense pressure to move my old fashioned ass out of our school, it wasn’t hard for me to decide to retire and take on the role of full time daycare provider for my new grandchild.

I made the move. The year ended. I left.

I took on the role of Nonni with love and joy and a huge sense of gratitude. I had never been able to be a stay at home Mom, and now I was able to give myself fully to the daily raising of a beloved child.

But.

I miss teaching. I miss it so much.

I was a good teacher. I was a teacher who connected with kids. I loved my job. I loved my students, so much. I loved their humor, their warmth, their vulnerability.

I remember so many kids who made me smile. Kids who only wanted to sit beside me. Kids who thrived because I greeted them in the morning and asked them how last night’s game had gone.

I loved their sassiness, the way that they challenged me. I remember kids who sat in front of me with tears in their eyes as they said, with shaky voices, “Yeah, but I disagree.”

I loved helping them find the best parts of themselves. I remember the shy children who lead the morning meeting. I remember the unpopular kids who directed our class plays. I remember the moments when the very cool kids independently reached out to the struggling kids.

Every night, I dream of school. Every night. I dream of teaching. I dream of my colleagues and my friends. I dream of rooms full of smiling kids.

Every night I dream that someone is trying to keep me out of my classroom. Or that it is my last day of teaching, and I have to say goodbye to the kids, but in every dream there is no real way for me to do that.

I dream that I am on the outside of school, looking in at kids I loved so much. I dream that I am a substitute teacher, but that no one one knows I’m a “real” teacher inside. I see myself on the edges of my old life. I feel myself sobbing as I say goodbye to a line of children I once knew.

I love my new life. I am happy to be at home with Ellie.

But, oh, man. I so miss read aloud. And birthday songs. And recess. I so miss those moments when the kids light up about a history lesson.

I miss the social connections. I miss the afternoon game. I miss the greetings. The math lessons. I miss the bursting out laughing with 24 people who all share the joke.

I was a good teacher.

It should have lasted longer.

 

Let the Autumn Come


SONY DSC

It was a September Tuesday.  It should have been fresh and brisk outside.  Our small New England town should have been feeling the oncoming change of seasons.

It was nearly 90 degrees outside, and as humid as a typical July day in Massachusetts.  My friend and I, both retired as of July 1st, decided to spend the day kayaking on a local lake. When we made the plan, of course, we knew that it would be a “weather permitting” event.

Well.  The weather certainly permitted today!

I woke up early, showered, dressed in a bathing suit and shorts, cleaned out my kayak, and found my paddles and jacket.  I filled a water bottle, walked the dogs, and waited for Lesley to arrive.

So funny!  My dear friend, with her graying hair that matches mine, arrived in a big old pickup truck, her kayak tied safely into the back. We did what ladies our age always do (we used the bathroom before we left), then piled into the truck and headed to the lake.

The place where I took my friend is a good sized lake about ten minutes from my house. It is common in that it is a lake in a region of many lakes. It is unusual in that it is nearly uninhabited, except for a big boy scout camp on one side.

Because it is September, and schools have opened, the camp was empty when we arrived. We parked the truck, unloaded our kayaks and happily headed out into the beautiful green waters of the lake.  We paddled our way around the cove, passing the boarded up camp cabins.  We made our way to a few of the small islands that dot the lake.

We let ourselves float for a bit, watching a family of loons as they fished in the cool water.  We looked at an abandoned beaver lodge, admired the water lilies, watched a graceful blue heron groom his wings.

The sun beat down on our backs.  The sky was a perfectly clear, dry blue.  The water kept calling us.

We put the boats ashore at a tiny beach that was most likely part of the Scout Camp. We let ourselves fall into the cool, clear water.  We floated.

There were no other humans in sight.  We heard only the loons, the gently lapping waves, and breeze in the pines.

How did we get so lucky, we kept asking ourselves, grinning at each other as we lay on our backs in the middle of the lake.  How did we ever find ourselves in such a perfect place, on such a perfect day?

We closed our eyes.  We let the water carry us.  We smelled the metallic herbal tang of the water all around us.  We watched a hawk circle, high over head.

My friend and I, two women who have worked together for many years, allowed ourselves to steep in the perfect heat and cool of the moment.  We paddled our way back to shore.  We loaded the boats and went home for lunch.

Let Autumn come, we told each other.  Today was the most perfect celebration of the Summer.

Something about the sea


I don’t know what it is about the sea.  I don’t know why it reaches out to us and grabs us and pulls us in so completely.

A gull on Assateague Island.

All I know is that every time I smell the salt smell of the ocean breeze, my lungs feel more open. My heart feels stronger. I can feel the blood moving in my veins.

I feel more myself when I am in the ocean’s arms.

When I see a gull, swooping out over the rolling waves, I almost believe for a moment that I too can soar away as far as the winds can carry me.  I almost believe that I can be that free, just for a little while.

It doesn’t matter what beach or coast I am on when I find myself in a spot where I can see the ocean at last.  As long as I can touch my lips with the tip of my tongue and taste the briny tang of salt and seaweed, I am home.

A winter day on the Massachusetts coast.

The ocean in winter is spectacular.  Cold and so sharp.  The beautiful gray of the water merges with the icy gray of the clouds. A study in monochromatic beauty.  I wish so much that I could live in a place where I’d see the ocean racing in every winter day.

But the ocean in summer, on a sweet July evening, in a place where the blue ocean meets the crystal sands.  Nothing in life is more alluring to me than that.  The spiky shards of beach grass poking up through the white sand, the restless movement of the dunes.  The incredible sight of a sailboat passing in the twilight.  Almost too pretty to be real!

             10252181_10203364290285477_7624965795637344050_n389026_4188736874199_1803145186_n

I would give anything I have to one day live in a place where I could watch that motion every single day.

Ah, but if wishes were horses……..

For now, I will have to content myself with occasional days at the beach with friends, walking in the surf, watching the gulls, finding sand dollars, daring each other to dunk in the freezing waters of high tide.

For now, I will count myself lucky to live as close to the Atlantic as I do.

For now, I’ll have to keep dreaming of one day owning that beach house.

Completely Transparent…..


I once had a therapist tell me that I was wasting my time with therapy.  She said that my dreams were absolutely obvious.

May I add that her name was “Goodheart”?   Not kidding, I chose her from the phone book specifically because of her name. I mean, how much more comforting could a name be than Dr. Goodheart?

Anyway, she told me that my dreams were so easy to interpret that she shouldn’t even charge me.  For example, while I was seeing her, living away from home at graduate school and very sad and lonely, I had  a dream that I was trying to walk on a long, long path, but that my shoes were too small and I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be.

Yuh.

Obvious.

When I was struggling to have a baby, and was depressed and downhearted, I once dreamed that I climbed up a huge mountain, hand over hand, until I got to the top, where I found a group of women, all sitting and breastfeeding babies.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t climb the last few feet to join them.

Really.

So what do you think Dr. Goodheart would make of my dreams this week?

One was a dream of my lying on my back, flat on my back, and people were piling cardboard on top of me. Tons of cardboard (this comes from the pile of cardboard in the back of my classroom, ready for our annual class play.) In my dream, there are a few people who are driving me nuts, and they are stacking piles and piles of ever more cardboard on top of me, as I try to scream out, “Ass holes!!!!  I hate you!!!”

Yeah.

"More Weight!!"

“More Weight!!”

Just like Giles Corey from the Salem Witch trials.  “Keep piling it on! I can take it!”

And then there was the dream that I was trying to keep a group of little boys safe from danger, and we were hiding in a big old house; it was thundering and pouring outside, and the boys were crying. I was trying to shelter them, and console them, but there were scary monsters outside of all of the windows.  I was scared for a bit, but then I stood up and slammed the windows shut.  So there!

I sat back down and gathered all the little boys into my arms. The dream ended with a feeling of peace.

And I keep dreaming that I’m traveling, on a long road, or on a train, or on a boat in a raging storm.   There are always problems, roadblocks, setbacks.  And I always feel scared, but I always keep going.   I keep going forward.

In my dreams, I never see where it is that I am bound, nor do I ever get there.

But there is always…..always…. the realization that I am moving forward.

What would Dr. Goodheart say to that, I wonder?