“How do you fill you time?” Mother asked as we ate lunch at the Bistro in the assisted care facility where she lives. I munched with guilty pleasure on a gooey tuna melt while Mother nibbled her cheese pizza.
Perhaps she was concerned about my transition into retirement.
“That’s an interesting question, Mother, but in some ways my life isn’t all that different from when I was teaching.”
I went on to explain that I still get up early every morning and drink a cup of coffee while checking the weather, headlines, blogs and email before sitting down to work. “Writing involves research, reading and drafting, like composing a lesson plan. And some lessons work, some don’t – just like what I write.”
Mother listened politely, as usual.
“I don’t revise on the fly like you and I did while teaching classes, responding to immediate feedback from our students – are they engaged in learning, bored, distracted? But much like classroom observations, I have peers who critique my writing. Based on their feedback, I revise. In fact most writing is rewriting and revision – just like teaching. Also, writing groups are similar to a community of teachers – always learning.”
“Not so much busy as absorbing. Remember when you were teaching and transitioned into retirement?”
“Oh yes, but I went right back the next fall as a volunteer. There were always new students and new things to learn.”
“And plenty of the usual chores at home. It takes the two of us to live where we live, with all the critters on the mountain.”
“Yup, whenever you own a house…” She paused. “How long was it between the time your father died and I moved here?”
“That’s a long time.”
“Yes it is.”
“It was time for me to move.”
“If I live as long as you, Mother, there’ll come a time when our ability to live on the mountain will end, and we’ll move into town, too.”
Later, back in her room, she settled into her chair. Baby pink carnations in a vase on her windowsill scented the room. We opened one of her old scrapbooks. Pictures of Mother’s childhood, school day friends, graduations and first teaching positions brought back memories.
She ran her hands over the soft grey construction-paper pages of her scrapbook and pointed to pictures. “There are my students, and the schoolhouse. I taught K-4 in the room to the left, and the other teacher had grades 5-8 in the room to the right. 1943-44, 1944-1945, 1945-1946 – I started when I was twenty.”
“Your father was still in uniform, November 1945.”
Next month I’ll bring Mother’s album showing the years when she and my father started their own family, their first transition together.
What was your first transition like?