Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Final Frontier

My life post-university can be divided into three parts. From 1966 to 1982 I was a "stay at home mother". My working life lasted from 1982 to 2000 and the last twelve years can be described as my life in retirement.

Much can be written about each individual segment—and I am sure that one way or another bits and pieces will pop up in this blog. Recently I found myself thinking about the transition from one life to the next. In 1982 I certainly had enough on my plate: number five was about to enter school, the other four were working their way through elementary, middle and high school. Our lives were full of homework, sports teams, choirs—all the things which were part of family life. It had become increasingly clear that sending all the children to university was going to be a an expensive proposition. Since this was back in the days before the University had areas like "Human Resources" and my husband had a buddy who could fill positions willy nilly, I found myself bringing home a paycheck in my new role as Graduate secretary in the Psychology department. No-one seemed to notice I couldn't type. That was, however, an exciting transition. Women were roaring, and the idea of using my mind and getting out into the world was appealing. I had the requisite blouse with a bow tie—and of course I walked right into the difficult role of a working mother, which women are still struggling with.

I was very fortunate, because my husband was often able to be home to cover emergencies, though for much of that period he was departmental chair, which means he had emergencies of his own. I will never forget the time I was due to leave for a conference on Friday and realized in the middle of the week I needed a decent pair of black shoes and did not have a single minute free when the shops were open. He bravely walked into Hudsons and brought home two pairs of black pumps. I moved into a more suitable position and things chugged along until we decided it was time for me to join him in retirement.

With a few weeks to go until my last day of work, I was all set to finish a handbook for my successor, but I found myself falling over in the snow outside the doctor's office, carted to the hospital and attached to an IV and diagnosed with pneumonia. I returned to work for an odd day or two, but the world never got the handbook, the system changed and everyone got along just fine. I transitioned into retirement and never looked back.

A short while ago I returned for the farewell party of a dear friend who had put in over 40 years. It was just wonderful to see so many old familiar faces and that's when I started looking back to those transitions—and realized I have just one left. I hope I greet the final frontier with the eagerness of those earlier changes. But without the blouse with its floppy bow.

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