After working 30 or 40 years, the retirement party should be viewed with eager anticipation. Somewhat surprisingly, this was not the case for my devoted and hard working wife. After raising three children and then earning four degrees through her doctorate, she went to work full time as a teacher, a supervisor in several capacities, and finally as a school principal serving three different elementary and middle schools. Raising kids at home seemed to translate readily into the duties of overseeing the schooling of youngsters.
As all good things eventually come to an end, in the Spring of 1994 she arrived at a serious choice point. I had retired a year earlier, and had anticipated her retirement for many months. After her retirement we would be fancy-free and full of fun. At the same time she was seriously enjoying her routines and her responsibilities administering a school which badly needed a dedicated administrator. She was between a rock and a hard place as they say, so the decision was a difficult one.
The retirement party was scheduled for the end of the year in the Winder-Barrow School Board offices. All retiring staff, teachers and administrators were to be honored at the final board meeting. Following this honor, the party included the usual cake, drinks, and goodbyes.
Because of her status in the county, she was invited to share a few words with those several dozen folks attending the meeting. As one who was never at a loss for words, she readily moved from her seat in the audience to the front of the conference room.
As she began, she quickly started expressing how much she enjoyed working with all the fine folks in Winder-Barrow County, the administration, the teachers, staff and students. To this she added that her decision to retire was not entirely voluntary.
Then she added:
“You see my husband has been retired for over a year, and he said that unless I retire he was going to travel without me.”
At that moment, a lady in the audience stood up and said:
“Lois, if you would really like to continue working, I will be happy to travel with your husband.”
This was almost a meeting stopper. After a short pause, she bit the bullet, thanked the lady for her kind offer, and finished her glowing remarks about how much she enjoyed working in the schools.
She, of course, had no idea if I was serious. Until that point, neither did I appreciate how some folks enter retirement kicking and screaming. Had I not made that casual comment, she might be working still, and I might be travelling with her proxy.