This is a last for me.
I’m not good with coping with the magnitude of this occasion, though a phrase comes to mind–the one that is labeled, in bold and brilliant capitals: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
On this occasion, I cling to them like mental rosary beads, as I find myself desperately trying not to make a fool of myself in front of certain colleagues.
For them, this is just one more end-of-year lunch that they have to endure before they can finally unbutton their serious “Sir” shirts and shorten their sensible “Miss” hemlines, and abandon themselves to the scorching sun. A sun that somehow seems to shine just that little bit brighter when heralding the summer holidays for the “big people” in school.
I, being one of them–for the past 30 years and with about 30 seconds to go–do not begrudge them their indifference to all the wonderful things the Headmaster is saying about me at this event to mark my retirement.
What is beginning to unnerve me is the sudden and incredibly moving sight, of the rest of my colleagues, getting to their feet and giving me a standing ovation.
All resolve to stand up and give a farewell speech that would be worthy of an English Language teacher with a lifetime of semi colons and Shakespeare recitals under her ever- expanding belt dissolves.
I blub my watery mumbles of gratitude, as I nearly electrocute myself with the tear drenched microphone in my hand. But all hope of bowing out with as much grace as I can salvage is completely shattered when they turn on the sound system and Cliff Richard, my Cliff, suddenly starts belting out his 1960’s hit record, “The Young Ones” as if it was written for me and especially for today. All I can manage now is cringe-worthy, infantile attempts at expressing my amazement that they cared enough to include him in the programme.
Although, of course, if I hadn’t been such an emotional wreck, I should have expected Cliff to make an appearance. From his pride of place on my office wall courtesy of his annual calendar, and in a remarkable reversal of roles, that needless to say, he remains blissfully unaware of–he has been my biggest fan.
Just the look on his face and the promise it held of delivering feel-good tunes at the end of a long day was all I needed to make everything seem just that little bit more bearable.
He made it okay that I didn’t get the top prize for dressing up as Anne of Green Gables for our ‘Character for A Day’ event. (Oh, alright then- as time marched on, I probably did bear more of a resemblance to Anne’s long lost mother than Anne herself.)
Or, that instead of being applauded for being the perfectly poised Spelling Bee Marshall at our Spelling Bee competition, I actually got abuse from “yummy Mummies” that their brokenhearted little bees had “buzzed” home to, after I had to shoo them away for misspelling a word.
And he doesn’t let me down on this momentous day, either. Back in my office, he urges me to make quick business of packing away my professional life so that I can run as fast as I can out of the school gates and straight into one of those glossy brochures for Over 50’s.
I have been fervently and of course, furtively reading these brochures as if they were advertising some new life enhancing vitamins. They have helped to keep at bay a full scale panic attack that is threatening to overwhelm me.
For I, conditioned to treat daily deadlines as if they were life or death cases in some inner-city hospital’s emergency room, am suddenly terrified by the prospect of the never-ending, non-brain-taxing holiday that looms ever so ominously ahead of me.
But to be anything but the happiest retiree that ever retired is not an option–if only to save face after years of moaning and groaning to my nearest and dearest that I’m counting the seconds till I can mow the greener grass that surely lies on the other side of my 9 to 5 job.
So here I am and so it begins. This retirement business and the trillion and one things that I had promised myself I would do when I finally made it through its mystical and mythical gates.
A trillion, however, is perhaps a tad too ambitious. Instead, I’m just going to go for my top two–those that I have dreamt about as passionately as any “wannabee” Olympics champion dreams of winning gold.
A drum roll would do very nicely here: in the top spot is not selling a kidney and going on a seven star cruise around the world, but the rather more heady pleasure of finally being able to scream “SHUT UP” to the rudest taskmaster known to modern day man–the alarm clock.
There has been many a time when I could have been put behind bars for the cold blooded murder of that rage generating, wake-up generator. Nothing and no one can ever compare to how brutal it has been over the years; not once taking into consideration the tribulations of the night.
It never ever cared that the terrors of sickness had kept me up all night. Or that one of my boys had needed to wake up Mummy in the night to change soaked and soiled Postman Pat pajamas; terrified that the daylight would make them targets of ridicule- or ten times worse-pity. Because, of course, as luck would have it, it just happened to be the night their best friend was staying at our house.
These are just examples taken from a catalogue of woes that have made sleep an elusive commodity for mothers since the beginning of time. A time long before mothers had even become a part of the work force and had only the face of the sun to confront when a new day beckoned.
The other prospect of retirement that I have long fantasized about is the one of finally being able to choose which people can have a starring role in my life and those that can be consigned to history. Now that I can do as I please, it would please me no end to issue marching orders to a whole host of unsavory characters that I had to stomach because it was all part and parcel of being the consummate professional.
The likes of colleagues, for example, who wore as a badge the attitude that he or she was not a “morning person.”
This meant that my cheap and cheerful “good mornings” were, more often than not, addressed to backsides backing away. Well, now, Mr. Evening Person, you can bugger off and mind your manners on your own time! The precious space that you were occupying can now be taken up by a much more deserving bunch—my fellow golden oldies!
And that’s the way to go–to jump with joy into the great unknown! A new world order that requires a new type of “to do” list. The type that–miracle of miracles–takes into account whatever happens to take my fancy.
I can, for example, watch Super Frank Lampard score his swan song goals for my beloved Chelsea football team, whatever the bloody time difference between me and Stamford Bridge.
Or, I can plant London daffodils in my desert of a backyard and know that this time, they are sure to grow. For I have all the time in the world to chat with them about their magnificent ancestors and how they had coloured my childhood days.
And having all this time on my hands is definitely a first for me!
Photo by tevjanphotos, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.