“I’m dancing as fast as I can….”
How many times I heard that polite delayed workflow explanation from my beloved editorial assistant, who amazed me with many of her long-learned tricks of the trade, including her policy of giving me two copies of any requested report.
“One to use, and one to lose,” she would say.
When my editorial assistant retired, I gave her a collectible dancer figurine with a note in her retirement gift card that celebrated and reminded– now she was free, whenever she chose, to slow down the tempo, or to entirely sit out the next dance.
For years, she and her two sisters, who were geographically dispersed from within the contiguous states, had pledged at 9:00 a.m. (amazingly, EST) every morning to pray for each other. As her retirement present to me, she promised to include me in her daily prayer intentions.
On this last day of employment, when I’ll be officially terminated—no more emails or voice mails, no more paychecks–I’m thinking of my editorial assistant, and I’m thinking of how grateful I was–and still am–for her mature friendship. If she weren’t living in Arizona now, I’d be asking to celebrate this life transition with her, in person.
Concerning the dancing, though, I’m thinking in the opposite direction.
From now on, I’ll dance as much and as fast as I can—for the sheer delight of it!
As I think of another memorable last day on the job, I think of my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Because our district had strictly enforced rules against gifting teachers, we waited until the last day of the school year was officially over to offer our little remembrance.
Knocking on the kindergarten door, accessible from the parking lot, we returned to share a token of appreciation on the occasion of the teacher’s retirement. Although our intentions were good, I’ve regretted having returned, given that we intruded on her personal retirement separation-reconciliation time.
In contrast to the joyful countenance with which she walked the children out and waved a hearty good bye to parents and students, when she graciously opened the classroom door for us, we found her wiping away the multitude of tears that had been free flowing.
After quickly thanking her, wishing her well, sharing our little present (a commemorative coffee mug–what design or message was on that mug, I honestly don’t remember), and exchanging farewell hugs, we made our awkward exit, sorry we had invaded her privacy.
With one last backwards look and wave, my last image of her was that she stood clutching that mug, though empty, as if it contained all the memories of all the children over all the years she ever had taught.
While I still wish we hadn’t gone back, I like to think that we represented for her all the grateful parents and children she ever had taught. And now, for me, she has given me permission to shed some private tears tomorrow…and the inspiration even to buy a mug to commemorate this big day—what it will say, I do not know—but I’ll know it when I see it!
Although they did not know it when they gave me what they assumed would be a “normal” end-of-the-year gift card, I will use the gifts of the last parents and children who wished me well the last day of school in June to purchase that mug to remember all the students, all the parents, and all the kindnesses over the years that had been extended to me.
Dancing my way into retirement, and drinking (coffee or tea!) when I’m thirsty—that’s a good combination for tomorrow and all the days that follow.
What retirement farewells do you most clearly remember?
Congratulations! I will be interested in following you to hear how you like not having to get up and go to work. (I love it.)
Thank you so very much for sharing your well wishes. I’m feeling the need for an “Outer Circle” of retiree comrades and mentors. Okay to reach out to you?
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Thank you for reminding me of the best “gifts” I received on retirement. No it wasn’t the coffee mugs (2 – one for me and one for hubby – beach designs for our beach cottage), or the plaques, or flowers or even the champagne. It was the heartfelt notes people sent me. I received many of the generic “congratulations best wishes” notes, but the ones that were “gifts” were the ones that pointed out what I meant to them – as a coach, role model, partner in crime, or advocate. One of my favorites was the woman who told me that she appreciated when I told her the truth that no-one else would tell her, and she didn’t know who would do it now (we had a very rocky relationship at times!). Another that she wanted her career to mimic mine, so could she keep in touch to mentor her (we have). And the most amazing – quite a few from people that I had no idea I had influenced. Those notes also made me realize all the missed opportunities I had not utilized to tell others what they had meant to me.
I honestly believe that teacher all those years ago appreciated your showing up – not because of the coffee mug, but because you took the time to come in and appreciate her. And I also know that the separation-reconciliation does not happen in an hour, or a day, or even a month. The tears will come again and again. The acts of appreciation stop well before the tears.
Use your coffee mug to re-live the appreciation and kindnesses. (BTW – I put every one of those “gift notes” in a scrap-book and re-read them when the lows hit my first year out.)
What a beautiful reflection. I feel so honored to have you take the time to share your retirement gift experiences. Thank you for gifting me in so many ways these days leading up to the “Big Day” (tomorrow.) This last employment day is crowned with your words of wisdom, which set me up–tears notwithstanding–for tomorrow’s passage. Looking forward to continue “Outer Circling” with you. God bless you!