Thursday, February 2, 2012
Does "Retired" Mean "Tired Again"?
I've retired ... several times. The first was in January 1997, when I retired from the Aurora City Schools, the very day I reached my thirty-year eligibility. I had grown oh so weary of the proficiency-test mania that was gripping our school--and our state. The test had become the curriculum. And in my view, the writing test, especially, was an egregious misrepresentation of what writing is really like. (In those days, we had to prepare the 8th graders for the three types--three types? really?--of writing: Description, Narrative, Essay--as if these three are mutually exclusive? Kids would fail the test if they wrote a Narrative when they were supposed to write a Description; madness.) I couldn't wait to escape. I couldn't stand the thought of spending so much of my time doing something I just did not believe. But I would miss the kids, horribly.
In 2001, I returned to Western Reserve Academy, where I'd taught a couple of years, 1979-1981. I had prostate cancer surgery in June 2005, taught another year, then retired when my cancer was showing signs of returning. But things stabilized, so I returned again in the fall of 2006. (And, of course, at that moment, the cancer decided it was time to get back into action--and I missed some school because of having daily radiation treatments at the Cleveland Clinic.)
In 2010, I decided it was time to retire again. My cancer was getting active again--nothing to worry about ... yet. And I was beginning to feel I'd lost a little something on my fastball. I got by for some of that year with off-speed stuff. But I still had lots of fun--just as I had my very first year when my two principal emotions were confusion and terror.
And now I sit in Caribou at 6 a.m. And I read books I'm reviewing; I read other books I've always wanted to; I obsess over a writer and read everything by him/her (currently: John O'Hara); I edit some text I've written at home.
At home, I'm still clipping articles out of the newspaper--something I've always done. Articles about writers or literary matters or just weird stuff I thought my students would like. I used to take them into class; often I'd begin class with one of them--just to get things started. Now, I usually just post them on FB--or here.
Sometimes, I don't know what-the-hell I'm doing, sitting there in Caribou at 6 a.m. every day.
And then I remember the reason: If I don't, I'll die--die in the only way that matters to me.