My first year of retirement brought abundant blessings. The spring had been tough—covering Aaron’s job for Steve’s speaking business, cleaning out my classroom, going to retirement celebrations, and moving Kelsey from her dorm for the summer.
But that summer was great! I’d never felt so free and comfortable. I treated it as a usual summer, working in the yard, lunches with friends, hosting cookouts.
But when fall arrived, I was surprised at how displaced I felt. It wasn’t that I wanted to be back to teaching, but it was the idea that life in Moyer continued without me! I’d drive past the school, thinking about how the children were learning as usual and it was just strange. By the end of the school year, I’d gotten over that.
That fall, on September 27, my Aunt Juanita, for whom I’m named, would celebrate her 80th birthday. She had requested no party, but just a gathering of her siblings and their spouses for dinner. No one else. Her daughter Annelle organized the party at Aunt Juanita and Uncle Gilliam’s home, and invited only her brothers and sisters and their husbands and wives. Annelle, Gilliam, and Juanita would host nine guests. Of the original nine siblings, one had died, one couple was not local, and one and her husband were in nursing homes. (Yes, separate ones. Now that’s another story!)
When I found out the plan, I decided that since I was her namesake, I was entitled to be at the party. So, since I wasn’t teaching and my time was my own, I drove to Goodlettsville, Tennessee, to “Hawkins Halt,” the lovely home Aunt Juanita and Uncle Gilliam had built for retirement. I did pick up my mother on the way, since she and Annelle were my sources for what was happening.
As I expected, Aunt Juanita seemed delighted at my surprise appearance, and I got to lay low and listen to the siblings talk. Each had written a letter (as had I) to go in a notebook for Aunt Juanita. She was their oldest living sibling, and at that point we had no idea that now, 21 years later, all of them would have passed the 80th birthday milestone and Aunt Juanita would live to be 97. A delightful time!
In January, Mother, age 77, had to have knee replacement surgery, and I could be with her and help with her rehab for two weeks, which I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) have done if I’d been teaching.
The crowning joy for that first year was in May 2001, when our first grandchild was born. Because Gina’s mother was in Greece at the time, I, though the mother-in-law, got to stay with them a week to help with baby Kinley. What a treasured memory! It helped them to transition from a couple to a family of three, but it was an incredible blessing for me to be there.
I could never have enjoyed those events, each of which made me feel useful but also loved, if I hadn’t taken early retirement. What joyous times for my first year of freedom!
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9-10