“Honey, I’m Home Forever”

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“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else. I’ve felt that many times. My hope for all of us is that “the miles we go before we sleep” will be filled with all the feelings that come from deep caring – delight, sadness, joy, wisdom – and that in all the endings of our life, we will be able to see the new beginnings.”
― Fred Rogers

I’ve been shot, twice now, in the left arm, and I’m a little unsettled about life after vaccination. Additionally, I’m horrified to admit I’ve developed a mild case of agoraphobia over the last year, might have something to do with prolonged Zoom calls. It’s a theory, baseless really, but if not Zoom, then it’s definitely The Larry Factor. The idea of planning a cruise, a dinner party, or a massage seems rather terrifying, maybe even irresponsible.

I’ve become a walking germaphobic and honestly, the masks are only exasperating my condition.

We’ve been through a lot lately, both individually and collectively, so let’s go easy on each other. I don’t know about you but I tired. I’m actually tired of doing nothing but numbing the dread for the better part of a year. I might need therapy because “trying” to be “happy” isn’t getting rid of the angst. Maybe I should call Shawn Anchor the “happy” expert?

The truth is I’ve been hibernating as if a bear with a den of cubs for the better part of a year. I’m lethargic, okay grouchy, and fat (the PC term is fluffy). Seriously, I could do daily workouts with those insane Peloton instructors, and I’d still have a healthy layer of insulation that would get me through next winter. Try not to judge.

And not to complain but my students are under some sort of spell, try as I may to hook them with stellar lessons plans (Bahaha), I only manage to wake them up briefly before they slip back into their COVID comas, and crawl under their hoodies.

My hope is that one morning I’ll wake up and realize this was all a dream.

Well, more like a nightmare, but let’s focus on the positive.

Just when Larry and I have become addicted to endless hugs and kisses from our grandkids, and the sound of laughter reverberating off the walls of our home, they pack up and leave. Our villages came so close together, the beginnings and endings could no longer be discerned, well that and the fact they moved across the street.

As my cubs relocated it’s as if the house doubled in size down to the hollowed halls and can I just say the silence is deafening. I’m not kidding. My ears have been trained to identify the sounds of distressed children for like a year as if I’m a massive sonar device and now all I pick up is a noiselessness void. It’s unnerving.

Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go. Sarah Dessen

Yesterday I putzed around the house for like the first time in a year, adjusting the trinkets that survived my grandkids, fluffing pillows that will stay where I place them, returning abandoned toys to the cupboards. I had a big decision to make and I was wallowing in the ability to linger with my thoughts for more than a few minutes without disruption. And just like Cheryl Strayed, I loved the cozy familiarity of the way I arranged my belongings all around me.

Not to complain but our sleep patterns have become as erratic as the availability of toilet paper, by 8:00 pm we can no longer keep our eyes open (let’s agree to agree it’s not just about the wine), and then for the life of us we can’t figure out why we’re wide awake at 2:00 am playing solitaire on our phones? Okay, I play solitaire, Larry searches youtube for things like porcelain repair, and how to get crayon art off textured walls.

I say it’s the residual of a pandemic whose contagions have altered our internal clocks, possibly forever, or the house is haunted?

The next thing I know Kelley and Tim show up on our doorstep, the very day the guest room is vacated, definitely a sight for sore eyes, I haven’t seen them since their wedding last year!

Kelley’s a Kondo kickass and now that both Julie and my houses are in various states of disarray we need some serious assistance. I have cleared out three gigantic cupboards, a closet, and although I have miles to go, there are only a few weeks before our remodel begins. Keep in mind I have a deeply embedded aversion to change and all these adjustments are taking a toll on my sense of well-being.

I’ve taken up chanting, it doesn’t work, but it annoys the roommates. So there’s that.

Julie and Nic now have a fully functioning kitchen and we have given it a worthy christening. Nic has already cooked up some delicious gourmet hamburgers, savory eggs benedict, and an elegant chicken salad. He’s a brilliant chef and I blame him for my evolving curvaceousness.

Drumroll please…so here’s my exciting news!

A wise person, Susan Newman, once told me that the way you leave something is the way you enter what’s next. Today I’m giddy to announce my retirement after 15 years at Notre Dame. I sent a note I’ve been holding in a draft folder for weeks to the principal, vice-principal, chair and co-workers informing them of my intention to retire at the end of this academic year, instantly I wanted to rescind the note, but I reminded myself about the champagne I bought for tonight’s celebration and decided to resign myself to resigning. As my co-worker Deidre says, a bottle of champagne is a good motivator for SO MANY life choices. Pretty sure that’s why they serve it at weddings?

We gathered around Julie’s generous island to celebrate my newfound identity, or maybe my ability to make a damn decision, Kelley did one of those boomerang things as I popped the champagne and filled our glasses. She posted it on Instagram and like half a dozen people messaged me to see if she was pregnant? She’s drinking champagne people!

So Julie lifts her glass and says, “Dad you do the toast for Mom.”

Larry looks like a deer caught in the headlights, he says, “What are we celebrating?”

We all stare at him as if he turned a putrid shade of green? “Dad, Mom retired today.”

“She did?” He gives me the look.

I say with all the authority of a recently retired school teacher, “really, we’ve been discussing this for months, and now you claim ignorance?”

“I didn’t know today was the day.”

“Hint, the full glasses of champagne?”

“I thought we were celebrating Nic’s new kitchen?”

“Dad, that was so last week.”

In the meantime we are all standing there holding our bubbly with worried expressions clouding our recently cheerful faces.

He looks around, lifts his glass, and says “to Mom’s retirement.”

“Now that’s the way to wrap up a decade of work?”

“So what’s next?”

“My retirement plan is to get thrown in a minimum security prison in Hawaii.”

“I’ll drive the get-away car.”

Honestly, I’m no longer equipped to function in polite society. I don’t remember how to wear makeup, or real clothes, or shoes. This is the result of working from a lounge chair, in pajama bottoms, on Zoom for a year! Now when people ask what I do for a living, I can say I’m a writer, and that will explain everything.

I’ve come to the end of a long road, but as you know when we think we’ve come to the end of the runway, that is when we learn to fly.

“No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life; this is the beginning of a new book! That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas; this new book is newly opened, has just begun! Look, it is the first page! And it is a beautiful one!” C. JoyBell C.

I’ve come to realize that behind every story there is a gap, I’m Living in that Gap, but don’t mistake this as the end. Here’s to new beginnings, join me in the comments, what are you starting anew?

Anecdotes:

  • A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it. H.L. Mencken
  • “Retirement: That’s when you return from work one day and say, ‘Hi, Honey, I’m home—forever.'” Gene Perret
  • “We spend our lives on the run: we get up by the clock, eat and sleep by the clock, get up again, go to work—and then we retire. And what do they give us? A bloody clock!” Dave Allen

39 Comments

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  1. I love this post! Congratulations on the retirement,C! You are so deserving. I could relate to everything you wrote. You’re not feeling any of it alone (as I sit in my sweats that I wear daily). It’s as if a step outside is like a step on Mars at times. But as long as I’m on a trail it’s better. Branson, my touristy town, is crawling with humans. I should be very happy so many are here and we are experiencing record numbers. But it’s as if I’m frozen sometimes. Not in fear. But I’m an actual comfort I had to learn in the silence and alone. I’ll toast my wine to you. Blessings for a book! And sip sip hooray to you! ❤️💛💚🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Karla! Life has certainly thrown us some curve balls lately! I’m catching them when possible and tossing them back to the pitcher! Crazy how different this last year has been! I’m thrilled to have decided on a new direction and can’t wait to see what this new journey reveals! I so appreciate the good cheer! I include you in the blessing for a book! C

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Retiring from work was the best and most sensible move I ever made in my entire life. I just wish I could have done it ten years earlier. Live a very long and exceedingly happy retirement, dear Cheryl.
    Best wishes as always, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Pete! I was very torn, I love being in education, but this has been a tough year for both teacher and students! I’m looking forward to having more time to write, read, and publish! I appreciate your kind thoughts! C

      Liked by 2 people

  3. CONGRATULATIONS Cheryl!!!! Welcome to the retirement club ! So happy for you ! Now you can devote all of your time to your passions.
    I cannot wait to read all that you write 😘👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Melissa! I’ve been admiring this retirement club for years! I just have to make it through May. Yes, time to indulge my passions! Larry’s thrilled as you can imagine. Miss you 💕

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  4. YAY! I think you made an excellent choice. Congratulations I heard on the news today that a lot of people including students are afraid to get back to normal and leave their homes. “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been!” I think a lot of us feel that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I didn’t wake up the next day and regret my decision so I’ll consider that a good sign! We’re back in the classrooms in a few weeks, I think it will be good for both students and teachers to get back to normal! I’ve so adapted to this isolating lifestyle! Time to reengage with life! C

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats on your retirement … they says these are the golden yrs .. here is to your yrs being golden and you find time to savor your last 6 decades while weaving gold for the next 60 yrs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jim! It’s an exciting new turn of events for sure and one that will allow more time at the lake! “Weaving gold,” I like the sound of that! Here’s to many, many active decades of travel, accomplishment, and stories that beg to be written! xxoo, C

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  6. Cheers to you Cheryl.

    To all those young people you’ve served who will miss your heartfelt teaching. To all those you’ve worked with who will miss your camaraderie.

    And to all those who lay before you now, the number of which will grow through your decision and ability to now spread your writing wings even further… I can see them benefiting from the updraught of your wings.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Now when people ask what I do for a living, I can say I’m a writer, and that will explain everything!” This is wonderful news, Cheryl!! You’d hinted in our other venue about “big news” in your recent post and I was secretly hoping this was it. Notre Dame’s loss is absolutely your gain–onward to your first book and wishing you good work and a life so much more on your terms. Cheers to you, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mary Ellen! I wrestled with this decision but ultimately I listened to that raging, hormonal, inner voice and acquiesced! I’ll miss many things that work brings into my life but ultimately my goals have to do with writing so here we go! So glad I have the Geckos to lean on! Cheers my friend, C 💕🎉🥂

      Like

  8. Congratulations Cheryl!! We are heading to Les Bourgeois (the winery we went to with you) to have a drink in your honor. Looking forward to reading about your retirement adventures! Hope we can visit and help you spend some of that new found free time.

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  9. Beyond your way with prose Cheryl, which is consistently a 10/10, and always entertaining I am deeply moved to go watch “To Sir With Love” Again. One of my all time favorites, as is Lulu’s theme song. They are special to me because the actual story and the location of filming was very near where my Mum was raised in Bermondsey, which is right across the Thames from Wapping on the south side of the river. A place I have visited many, many times. Sadly, at least to me, the north side of the river where the school and most of the filming took place doesn’t look the same anymore, much of it being all built up with new flats and offices. Sigh. . . Progess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris, I didn’t know that was filmed in Bermondsey, where you Mum was raised! No wonder you have a strong attachment to this film. I agree, progress has a way of altering foundational memories and physical locations, replacing the familiar with the new. It’s part of be the aging process I suppose? We are old enough now to realize nothing stays the same! Sigh…

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  10. Wow!! Retirement!! Congrats to you. How thrilling. Have you figured out how you and Larry are going to live now that you are home, “forever?” The world is now your oyster. Will you write more? Will you take on other hobbies or activities? Do you have the travel bug? Will Larry be joining you in this venture soon? Awesome, though this has the potential to be a very stressful time. I confess that I am a little jealous.
    Enjoyed this writing as usual. Also really liked the song. When you come up with a well-done song from the distant past, it is really intriguing and refreshing. Music has clearly changed through the years.
    You brought up Cheryl Strayed, and of course that reminded me of my unfulfilled dream of hiking the PCT. This dream has been relegated to the dust bin of history, though I did manage to get Gail to agree to hike many parts of it with me (she already regrets and is trying to forget this agreement.)
    Looking forward to seeing you and the gang (say hi to Jim and Sue) this summer. Trying to juggle all the calendars and come up with a visit date has not been easy.
    As an aside……It is fascinating to see the shift in the Vaccine paradigm. As the vaccine first became available, it was highly coveted (picture people fighting for a spot on the life boat.) If you got vaccinated, you wanted to keep it on the low down (vaccine envy!). If someone happened to be around a vaccine location and there was an unused dose, you might get it but heaven forbid if the word got out. New York penalized people for jumping the queue so to speak, so some vaccine centers actually threw away extra doses to avoid the punitive penalties. If after getting the jab, you went to a glorious vacation site and posted the pics, you could be labeled a “Vaxhole.” Generally speaking, the vaccine will be available to just about anyone who wants it in a few days. However, there is a significant percentage of the population who have no interest in getting vaccinated. The national narrative is starting to shift from punishing those who wanted the vaccine too soon, to shaming those who choose not to get it. Strange days indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike, good morning, always good to find you here in the comments, and as usual I love your take on things. Yes! I’m retiring and I’m glad someone is jealous. It was one of those bouncy decisions, it kept landing in different nets, Larry wanted me to stay another year, I was tired of the Zoom platform, wearing masks while teaching, feeling a distance with my students. He kept saying, “sleep on it,” and I’d wake up more determined than ever. Then he’d say, “think about it?” And I’d think “I’m so done.” When I finally decided the only thing stopping me was Larry’s reservations I went with my gut and sent in those letters. It felt good and right and a blessed relief I might add. I think the current plan is to finish up our remodel (which could take several months), maybe fit some travel in the future, and for me ~ I plan to spend more time moving my writing in new directions. I might have to take a class? Now about the PCT, why not exchange that dream for the El Camino de Santiago? We’ve reschedule our hike for fall of 2022 and due to my newfound “retired” status we’re considering walking the whole thing, 500 miles. We’ll see if the vaccination allows us to travel internationally or not? I also want to spend some time in Portugal with my son. Speaking of vaccinations, it has been a strange “shift in the paradigm.” It seems to me that we know a lot more about vaccines than we know about the COVID19 virus? Some viruses cause cancer, shingles, heart defects. I was more worried about getting the virus than the vaccine, but I have a lot of friends that feel differently about it. Many of them believe the vaccine is either flawed or unethical or both. The interesting thing that you note is the judgement around all this? “Vaxhole?” That’s a new one to me. I guess it comes down to making the right decision for you, and allowing others to do the same, even if it differs from your personal beliefs. It has become religious and that’s a shame. Okay, I’m glad to hear you are wrestling with the calendars, hope you “pin” a date for California, we’re missing you all something fierce! I’ll pass on your salutaions to all, hugs, Cheryl

      Liked by 1 person

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