Eventually Freedom

After 30 years of working for the same company, my oldest brother, Anthony, retired. He’s been working since he was a kid. Whether he was hurling the local newspaper from his bike or hustling kids at school to buy Play Boy magazines, he was always trying to earn a buck. Nothing came easy to him.

I remember one (rare) occasion that my father treated us to an ice cream cone, and Anthony was excluded from the treat. I guess Dad felt Ant could buy his own with his paper money, but my brother had bigger plans for that hard-earned cash; so he just smiled and watched us lick our cones and relished the thought that his money would eventually buy him a new bike, so he could deliver the papers quicker.

He went from chucking newspapers and peddling Playboy magazines to dispensing gas, clerking at Loblaw’s grocery store, and a host of other low paying jobs earning enough money to put himself through 4 years of college. Eventually, he landed an interview with Rockwell International in Los Angeles where he got a job, married his home-town sweetheart, moved her out to the West Coast and promptly got laid off with hundreds of other Rockwell employees.

Small town kid made it big in Los Angeles, Ca, was the pride of family and friends back home in upstate New York, married his school sweetheart, moved her to La-La Land and then lost his job. Frankly, had it been me, I’d had probably gone to my closet, closed the door and asked to be left alone for a few months or so. But not Anthony. He had a wife to support, a life to live and a whole slew of friends and relatives in upstate New York expecting him to do good.

And do good he did. He picked himself up, brushed himself off and never looked back. He and Lucy had three lovely girls and made a great life for themselves with a lot of hard work, perseverance and unconditional love.

I’m happy for my brother. He’s earned the accolades, the parties, the well-wishes and recognition. It’s time for him to buy an ice cream cone and exchange his dress shoes for a good pair of boating shoes and enjoy his well-earned retirement.

During one of my morning walks recently, I began to think back on my retirement in 2008 and couldn’t help but see the obvious contrast in events. No accolades, very few well-wishes and one party that was hastily put together by a well-meaning, loving co-worker.  After many years of teaching special needs kids and facing the ever demanding work load of meeting the legal, district, and parental requirements associated with my job, my immune system crashed and I became physically and emotionally unable to meet the day to day demands of my job. Simply put: I had to stop or face an early death. I decided to stop. And because I was 52, I couldn’t opt to take a regular retirement, and so I went out on a medical retirement and thus began my walk of shame.

My school district was not pleased. Replacing me was not easy. The district decided to thank me for my years of service by denying me health benefits. My union representation was worthless and I was too sick to fight. The Princess eventually drove me to my classroom, and we packed up my belongings one Saturday afternoon with the help of another friend and co-worker. We packed up my car, locked up my classroom one last time and as I handed my keys to my co-worker, I remember taking one last look down an empty hallway at a child-less campus and thinking, “I gave this school and these kids all I had. I had nothing left to give any more. My body was exhausted and was too weak to go on. I had to stop. And it was ok.”

The problem was that it wasn’t ok for others. It was shameful. It was wrong. I was somehow not a regular retiree. Friends asked me if I felt funny working on my garden for fear of being caught by a CalSTRS representative for not looking disabled. Relatives promptly corrected me when I said I was retired and informed me that I wasn’t really retired, but collecting disability monies. And very few people offered congratulations on my many years of service, my many years of working with a population of kids and parents that few individuals would even go near. Somehow I was put on a walk of shame; a treadmill of dishonor. After all, accolades and congratulations are for those who stick it out, those who persevere, or so we’ve been lead to believe. Those of us who leave under any other circumstance need not have acknowledgement; need not have the praise. We’re a society that promotes perfection and winning and have little tolerance for disabilities and differences.

Let’s place blame and shame on those of us not strong enough; those of us not healthy enough. Blame will strengthen the individual. Shame will heal the sick.

Somehow my body’s unhealthy reaction to constant stress and pressure was my fault. I needed to man up and put on my big girl pants, or so I was led to believe.  My job not only required multiple credentials and the ability to teach a variety of learning differences, but at the end of my career, I was required to drive to three schools and cart lessons to each of those schools.

My first summer home to upstate New York after I retired was a mixed bag of excitement and shame. No praise for me. No accolades or honors. I was a loser, a quitter and a failure. The fact that my body and mind crashed was all proof that I was less than and not worthy of praise.

It’s been over 8 years since I retired and the sting of leaving still lingers, still haunts me, still hurts. But my identity today no longer rests on the shoulders of shame; the identity of failure. I retired as a special ed. teacher and I’m proud of my contributions.

Today I’m a writer – a story-teller of sorts. And I’m proud of myself and happy to be me. So, congratulations to my brother and congratulations to ME! We’ve both done good and I’m happy that we’re both free……

Have a great day, People, and I’ll catch you the next time, looking at life from my shoes.

 

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Published by

Lucie

After much encouragement and prodding by family, friends and professionals, I (a former Special ed. teacher and consultant from Northern Ca., who recently moved to the Olympic Peninsula of WA.) decided to take my FACEBOOK postings on my silly life with my life partner and 2 wacky cats and share them with a broader audience. I sincerley hope that I can bring a chuckle or two to all who enter my world when you read my blog. (Now let's hope that I can muster enough competence to figure out how to use this site in a reasonably competent fashion, so that I still have fun writing and others can actually "find me"!!!!) I wish all who enter "Lucie's World" much joy and laughter and ask that if I've touch your life in any way and made you giggle or smile, that you "pay it forward" for the week and share a moment or two of laughter with someone that you care about....

21 thoughts on “Eventually Freedom”

  1. So, my friend, your excellent piece is met with understanding, compassion, and thanks for the difficult job you did for as long as you possibly could. I’m so glad. As you know, I love this piece for its openness, vulnerability, and fine writing. And I love you for the good person and compelling writer you are. Let’s keep reminding each other that we don’t always have to be funny.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Janet. I wrote you back on my phone, the response showed up on Annie’s, at first, and now it’s totally gone!! Cazzo!! Anyway, many thanks for your lovely comment and encouragement. I hope you know by now how much I appreciate your input. Means a lot to me. We were at King’s Mt. Fair today in the local hills, and I met a woman from SF who I shared your garage sale story with and she totally cracked up!!! And, of course, I couldn’t stop laughing, either! That story’s hilarious. Hope you’re having a good labor day weekend. Hugs! Lucie ❤

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  2. Hi Lucie
    Firstly I wish your brother Anthony a happy, healthy life now that he has retired from what has been hard yakka for him, he deserves to smell some damn good roses for a while now and enjoy his well earnt freedom.
    You my dear friend gave your heart and soul to all those little cherubs who faced battles in life of which none of us can even comprehend. Your devotion to teaching those kids skills and providing them with tools to go forward in life as best they possibly can, that devotion Lucie had you completely spent, utterly and totally.
    Your a legend in MY eyes, because once again it takes a very special sort of person to do the work you did, you will be in all those kids hearts for the rest of their lives, they are the beneficiary of an amazing woman’s love and dedication, that is why to me you are a LEGEND.
    You deserve to enjoy YOUR FREEDOM,
    WITH A WARM HEART FOR THE JOY AND FREEDOM YOU HAVE ENABLED ALL THE BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN YOU TAUGHT, WHO’S LIVES YOU HAVE MADE VALUABLE AND MEANINGFUL DESPITE THEIR DISABILITIES.
    The shame lies solely with the establishment that doesn’t acknowledge the wonderful work that people like you who devote THEIR life to making a better life for kids who have the most difficult hurdles to climb going forward in their lives.
    No shame must hang over your head Lucie, your health is testament to all you gave to doing good work.
    Mate I know how difficult it is to find yourself way too young in life with ill health. Here in Australia we have to put our big ol’ pants on too and harden up, be positive they say, when we even mention the words, pain, sick, anxiety or depression.
    Pain is debilitating at any time but chronic pain is disabling, life is never the same again.
    Your freedom has come at a cost Lucie, but you are a LEGEND to me, and to all those kids that you enabled FREEDOM in their lives, you are a LEGEND to them as well.

    Love ya Lucie ol’ mate, biggest hugs headed your way
    From
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And once again Anne girl you have me speechless…you are the embodiment of all that is light and love and I so, so appreciate your kindness, dedication and steadfast loyalty to me. You’re one of a kind, Annie, and I love you with all of my heart!😍Now take care of yourself and go slowly…and thanks for reading me, Little Buddy and for your comment.😍😉Hugs, Lucie

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  3. Thank you for devoting yourself to special needs children.. Their needs are so great and few people choose to be with them. I admire and appreciate all you did. Now, please don’t retire from writing.

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  4. it is a horrible shame and disservice for all of what you gave to those kids and families. i personally know how hard special ed teachers work and the toll it takes on them and they should be celebrated. you hung in there much longer than most and for that you should be applauded, sorry it’s coming so late. you are a hero.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a bummer that that’s how people treated you. They should have been sensitive to the reasons you had to retire. There’s no shame in it. But, hey, you’re doing all right now. And besides, a little humility is good for the soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The contrast you throw light on here is stark, and it shouldn’t be. Every time we write about the body/mind struggle with stress, we have the chance to open minds. Everybody isn’t the same, and some who seem to be coping well are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so honored when people take the time out of their busy lives to read me, but to then honor me with a thoughtful, heartfelt comment touches me deeply…thank you….thank you from the bottom of my heart. ❤

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