Journal logo

(Not quite) Gone, but (Sort of) Forgotten

How I'm (not) adjusting to retirement

By Sherry Lowell-LewisPublished about a year ago Updated 12 months ago 7 min read

How and why I retired at 64 is a longer story than I want to put here. I'll just start with writing that I only "retired" to get enough money to fix the house and get rid of the snakes. Rattlesnakes. They came as an answer to my years of prayers for help to get rid of the mice. God is good. I couldn't afford an exterminator, so when I prayed for help, he send snakes. A bit "Biblical", but I asked for help.

I went to my boss to explain that I had to retire to get enough money to fix my house. It was the only way. I could not qualify for a loan.

Well, my boss wouldn't let me go. Bless her, she pleaded with me to stay and keep teaching. That's what I did/do. The retirement System would let me teach part time, so I took retirement with a cash advance and continued to teach.

I had shared an office with one or two others, from time to time, over the years. Then, it was about 30 years teaching there, and maybe 20 in that office space. It is a luxurious space by university teacher standards, with a large room that could accommodate 3 large desks with room for visitors, a second office room, plus a file room where we kept the little fridge and a microwave. We ended up adding the coffee-maker in the little room when we lost a co-worker. He didn't die; he just moved on.

From two of us, we added a third, lost number two and then number three left the next year. I was left alone in my "palatial mansion" as we called it. Students would come in and "Oh" and "Wow" at the size and some of the decor. I had a Bolivian rug that was used as a wall hanging, a Batik I made when I lived in Taiwan, plus pictures that had appealed to all of us, or at least tolerated by each of us. Most of the decor stayed and I added trinkets and honors along the way. I took over the use of three tall bookcases and most of the file drawers. 'Cause I could.

My office. I had been in the little room around the corner from the main room, and I would have stayed there, but the door in the main office did not reveal my presence. No matter how many signs I posted, "Mrs Lewis is in--Please Knock LOUDLY!" and so on, students would come to the door, peer in, see no one and leave. So I moved into the big room so I could be seen by all passersby.

I stayed in that office, alone. In spite of its grandeur, few full time faculty were interested in my office, because it was in the old building, at the top of the hill. They all wanted to be in the 'main' building on the main street.

That was fine with me.

Until this summer. I got an email request that started with, "Didn't you retire in 2018?" Yes. "We need you to move out. You should share space with the other part-timers." Okay, when? "July 1." This was from a newer boss.

Oh, no. I am teaching five hours a day, four days a week. I'm tired and old. I need a nap. I need some time in July. He replied that he was having open-heart surgery. I shut up and got to work the Monday after finals for that session. I could not imagine schlepping so much stuff for a half-mile, so I contacted the parking office about getting special permission to park "on campus" where only official vehicles are allowed. There was plenty of room. It took almost two weeks to get that going.

As I waited, I pondered, who wants my office? It is grand, but I thought no one was interested. Then I sent one more question to the boss.

"Hope you're healing and resting. You are in my prayers for a speedy, total recovery. By the way, where is the new place?"

He replied he didn't know, so I sent one more request to use my grand space for all part-timers and even the TA's (Teaching Assistants).

I heard nothing. I went to the Department's main office. I found the secretary agreed with me, that my office would be perfect. We could move out some of the furniture we used, consisting of a couch and a sofa chair, to make room for office furniture. I would vacate all but one bookcase and I could share my computer. I would restrict my time to twice a week for classes, with a little before and a little after for office hours. Everybody loved the idea but the boss. I didn't hear from him.

I got busy packing. I got busy purging my files. I had stuff from way back when I taught ESL and ESOL and ESL-Speech. I dumped it into the trash. Then all of the trash receptables that I could find were all overflowing, so I went home with some boxes.

The next day I rested. I had to.

I called the Facilities Services manager and asked for help. He provided two huge trash cans. I filled those up the next day, and packed more boxes. I loaded up my little Nissan Versa and headed home.

The next day, as I sat at my desk, picking through the contents therein, I looked up and saw the boss walk by, carefully looking forward and not toward me. I had the door propped open, for easy removal of more papers! I started to speak, but he was not moving easily, so I let him go. A few hours later, I was still there! He came by again, never even glancing my way, even though there was music playing. I almost followed him out just to be sure it was him.

Almost. I told myself to let it go. He obviously didn't want a confrontation. I would not have offered one.

The week after I finished moving out (Everything but the microwave and fridge; it was my idea that if the "new" office might have room for them.), I called to ask the secretary where I would be moving to and she told me he was going to email me. He had neglected to do so. She told me that I didn't need to move out. I could stay there and the other part-timers can join me.

As of now, two months later, there is only one other part-timer. I've known him for years, but I haven't seen him yet. There is a computer sitting on the floor in the little office, waiting for him. I set the coffee-maker up in there, anyway. I got a tall student to reach the high plugs for the microwave and fridge and I brought back a few things to put in the bookcases. I got another student to reach under the desk and plug a lamp in for me. The overhead lights are harsh.

Part of me is angry that it had to happen like that, with such a deadline.

The rest of me is grateful. That purge did me a lot of good. It also saves my son from having to go in there and figure it out, "some day". He might have felt guilty, throwing out that stuff, but didn't pain me at all. I kept what little I wanted, just in case I need to refer to it, or for sentimental reasons, but I chucked a bunch, and I'm glad. I would still have had to pare things down to make room for office partners, but I would probably not have been so brutal. It was a needed event. I conquered the pack rat in me!

So, I'm not quite forgotten. I spoke to many colleagues as I visited the offices in the 'main' building, and they remember me. Fondly, I think.

And I remain in my office, which is haunted, by the way. I will attest to that. He makes himself known in the summer and winter, by lowering the temperature a good ten degrees. In the fall and spring, when the wind blows outside, he lets some in to rattle the old doors. This old building has been in service to the university since 1914 and it has stories to tell.

Perhaps another time?


About the Creator

Sherry Lowell-Lewis

Actor, writer, voice-over artist, teacher, author, mother and Grammy of 4. I've done a lot. I grew up in Bolivia, Laos and Taiwan. Married 25 years, widowed. Please read my stuff and leave a comment! Thanks.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.