Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else. I’ve felt that many times. My hope for all of us is that “the miles we go before we sleep” will be filled with all the feelings that come from deep caring – delight, sadness, joy, wisdom – and that in all the endings of our life, we will be able to see the new beginnings.

― Fred Rogers

I’ve been shot, twice now, in the left arm, and I’m a little unsettled about life after vaccination. Additionally, I’m horrified to admit I’ve developed a mild case of agoraphobia over the last year, might have something to do with prolonged Zoom calls. It’s a theory, baseless really, but if not Zoom, then it’s definitely The Larry Factor. The idea of planning a cruise, a dinner party, or a massage seems rather terrifying, maybe even irresponsible.

I’ve become a walking germaphobic and honestly, the masks are only exasperating my condition.

We’ve been through a lot lately, both individually and collectively, so let’s go easy on each other. I don’t know about you but I tired. I’m actually tired of doing nothing but numbing the dread for the better part of a year. I might need therapy because “trying” to be “happy” isn’t getting rid of the angst. Maybe I should call Shawn Anchor the “happy” expert?

The truth is I’ve been hibernating as if a bear with a den of cubs for the better part of a year. I’m lethargic, okay grouchy, and fat (the PC term is fluffy). Seriously, I could do daily workouts with those insane Peloton instructors, and I’d still have a healthy layer of insulation that would get me through next winter. Try not to judge.

And not to complain but my students are under some sort of spell, try as I may to hook them with stellar lessons plans (Bahaha), I only manage to wake them up briefly before they slip back into their COVID comas, and crawl under their hoodies.

My hope is that one morning I’ll wake up and realize this was all a dream.

Well, more like a nightmare, but let’s focus on the positive.

Just when Larry and I have become addicted to endless hugs and kisses from our grandkids, and the sound of laughter reverberating off the walls of our home, they pack up and leave. Our villages came so close together, the beginnings and endings could no longer be discerned, well that and the fact they moved across the street.

As my cubs relocated it’s as if the house doubled in size down to the hallowed halls and can I just say the silence is deafening. I’m not kidding. My ears have been trained to identify the sounds of distressed children for like a year as if I’m a massive sonar device and now all I pick up is a noiselessness void. It’s unnerving.

Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.

Sarah Dessen

Yesterday I putzed around the house for like the first time in a year, adjusting the trinkets that survived my grandkids, fluffing pillows that will stay where I place them, returning abandoned toys to the cupboards. I had a big decision to make and I was wallowing in the ability to linger with my thoughts for more than a few minutes without disruption. And just like Cheryl Strayed, I loved the cozy familiarity of the way I arranged my belongings all around me.

Not to complain but our sleep patterns have become as erratic as the availability of toilet paper, by 8:00 pm we can no longer keep our eyes open (let’s agree to agree it’s not just about the wine), and then for the life of us we can’t figure out why we’re wide awake at 2:00 am playing solitaire on our phones? Okay, I play solitaire, Larry searches youtube for things like porcelain repair, and how to get crayon art off textured walls.

I say it’s the residual of a pandemic whose contagions have altered our internal clocks, possibly forever, or the house is haunted?

The next thing I know Kelley and Tim show up on our doorstep, the very day the guest room is vacated, definitely a sight for sore eyes, I haven’t seen them since their wedding last year!

Kelley’s a Kondo kickass and now that both Julie and my houses are in various states of disarray we need some serious assistance. I have cleared out three gigantic cupboards, a closet, and although I have miles to go, there are only a few weeks before our remodel begins. Keep in mind I have a deeply embedded aversion to change and all these adjustments are taking a toll on my sense of well-being.

I’ve taken up chanting, it doesn’t work, but it annoys the roommates. So there’s that.

Julie and Nic now have a fully functioning kitchen and we have given it a worthy christening. Nic has already cooked up some delicious gourmet hamburgers, savory eggs benedict, and an elegant chicken salad. He’s a brilliant chef and I blame him for my evolving curvaceousness.

Drumroll please…so here’s my exciting news!

A wise person, Susan Newman, once told me that the way you leave something is the way you enter what’s next. Today I’m giddy to announce my retirement after 15 years at Notre Dame. I sent a note I’ve been holding in a draft folder for weeks to the principal, vice-principal, chair and co-workers informing them of my intention to retire at the end of this academic year, instantly I wanted to rescind the note, but I reminded myself about the champagne I bought for tonight’s celebration and decided to resign myself to resigning. As my co-worker Deidre says, a bottle of champagne is a good motivator for SO MANY life choices. Pretty sure that’s why they serve it at weddings?

We gathered around Julie’s generous island to celebrate my newfound identity, or maybe my ability to make a damn decision, Kelley did one of those boomerang things as I popped the champagne and filled our glasses. She posted it on Instagram and like half a dozen people messaged me to see if she was pregnant? She’s drinking champagne people!

So Julie lifts her glass and says, “Dad you do the toast for Mom.”

Larry looks like a deer caught in the headlights, he says, “What are we celebrating?”

We all stare at him as if he turned a putrid shade of green? “Dad, Mom retired today.”

“She did?” He gives me the look.

I say with all the authority of a recently retired school teacher, “really, we’ve been discussing this for months, and now you claim ignorance?”

“I didn’t know today was the day.”

“Hint, the full glasses of champagne?”

“I thought we were celebrating Nic’s new kitchen?”

“Dad, that was so last week.”

In the meantime, we are all standing there holding our bubbly with worried expressions clouding our recently cheerful faces.

He looks around, lifts his glass, and says “to Mom’s retirement.”

“Now that’s the way to wrap up a decade of work?”

“So what’s next?”

“My retirement plan is to get thrown in a minimum-security prison in Hawaii.”

“I’ll drive the get-away car.”

Honestly, I’m no longer equipped to function in polite society. I don’t remember how to wear makeup, or real clothes, or shoes. This is the result of working from a lounge chair, in pajama bottoms, on Zoom for a year! Now when people ask what I do for a living, I can say I’m a writer, and that will explain everything.

I’ve come to the end of a long road, but as you know when we think we’ve come to the end of the runway, that is when we learn to fly.

No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life; this is the beginning of a new book! That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas; this new book is newly opened, has just begun! Look, it is the first page! And it is a beautiful one!

C. JoyBell C.

 

Previously Published on cheryloreglia.com

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