Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of My Life
Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life--trite, but true. Tomorrow is the first day of my last school year working as a Special Education para educator. I have mixed emotions as I like my job. Actually, I have the best job in school district because I work with the best student in the best high school. I have amiable workmates who are the cherries on my work sundae. So why not keep working? The reasons are multiple.
Unfortunately, retiring and collecting both my Social Security and my retirement will actually give me a raise. I have always joked and said that if I kept working much longer the district would expect me to pay them. I wasn’t far off the mark. I will be 63 in February so am already eligible to collect SS. When I first began working with my student when he was a freshman I told him that I wouldn’t retire on him, that we’d graduate together. He has come to be very dear to me and makes each day a joy. He says that between the two of us we make one good brain. That makes me laugh. I am his hands; he is the brains in our outfit and very forbearing to tolerate spending the better part of 6.5 hours of his days with an old lady. In some other life he could have been my grandson. Tomorrow he begins his senior year which means nine more months to help him prepare to make his way in the world. He will always need and have help, but it’s time for him to spread his wings and find his path, even if it is in a wheelchair.
For over a year I have been living in a commuter marriage. In June 2012 my husband Dave and I determined that it was necessary for him to return to work for Lockheed Martin to help pay some debts. He had retired when Lockheed closed their Seattle Flight Service, but had offered him jobs in other facilities over the years. Finally it seemed an offer that couldn’t be refused, especially when we discovered that he could rent a room from an old friend from his FAA Bakersfield days who happened to be working at the Prescott, AZ facility that offered Dave the job. The year plus of having a commuter marriage, which I discovered is not all that uncommon (not a good commentary on American life), has been a year of learning for both of us. Dave admits that in the beginning there was a certain amount of excitement with regards to living somewhere new for a while. That wore off somewhat rapidly when he realized that life was going on at home without him where grandchildren were growing and changing and I was learning to do without him. That has not always been easy. He is home for a few days to attend his mother’s funeral and admitted that he doesn’t want me to get along too well without him. Anxious to feel needed he had not even unpacked before he started doing chores around the house as if he’d never left. We get by without him, but I am the first to admit that life is much smoother with him. Originally Dave’s move to Prescott had an end date of his 62nd birthday (SS) this month, but a little raise has enticed him to stay into October to sell back his annual leave at the higher rate and get two more pay checks so it’s home before Halloween now with the plan for him to do some projects on our Gig Harbor house with an eye for selling it. Then we can move to our other house in Ilwaco, WA which will presumably be cheaper to live in.
The move to Ilwaco will also put me within six blocks of my nearly 92 year old mother who so far is remaining in her own apartment. Every time I have to come away from Ilwaco I worry about her despite the fact that we pay for a chore person once a week, one of the neighbors to take out the garbage and for a medic alert system. This week we are burying Dave’s mother whose birthday would have been Friday, just 11 days before my mother’s. I don’t think I will ever regret spending more time with mine.
The last, but most important, reason for me to want to quit my job is my own Special Needs daughter. Amy is 42.5 years old and has Down’s Syndrome. The average life expectancy for people with an extra 21st chromosome is 50. I feel the clock ticking. She can be frustrating and stubborn and loves me more than anyone ever will. She is a gift with whom I want to spend as much time as possible. There have been times during Dave’s absence that she’s been alone for 7 hours a day at home, although for the most part my daughter-in-law has been at home with her. While she’s happiest with her own company and knows she can reach me at any time by calling my cell phone and I am only ten minutes away, those have been anxiety ridden hours. Dave is not Amy’s biological father, but she has him wrapped around her tiny pinkie and one of the things that made me fall in love with Dave was a remark he made when we were first “keeping company.” He said, “It’s nice. You’ll always have Amy.” Who could not love a man that thinks it’s not only okay to have my child always with me, but desirable and then was willing to take on a ready-made family that included her three brothers and grandmother. Perhaps I’m lucky that he didn’t run away and join the circus before 21 years had passed!
So tomorrow begins the first day of the rest of my life and my last first day of school. How exciting is that?