Lee’s Retirement Chronicles: Part 5

(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is the next part of what will be a continuing series: “Life After Work(ing).”)

When last I left you, I told you it was the weekend and you should expect nothing profound. I didn’t give you anything profound because I was tired from a very busy Thursday, which I never even mentioned.

I’ll skip all the acronyms and the names that go with them except for one. I boarded a bus with my wife and some other support staff and a whole bunch of disabled men and women for a trip from Grand Rapids to Lansing to gather at the Capitol building to celebrate 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA [see, an acronym]) and remind the Senate and the House members that funding must continue for this great program.

Oddly, the Capitol building is being renovated and a couple of the previous handicapped entrances were closed, forcing us to walk in through what could best be described as “basement” doors, which necessitate riding an elevator up to the second floor(s) to see the Senate chambers and the House chambers. I was along to be a P.A. (Personal Assistant) for a guy (not) named “Bill,” who, in the course of our conversations, informed me that he was 53 years old and very up-to-date on the current state of the Detroit Tigers. Don has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair; my task, other than to make sure he got from Point A to Point B, was to help him when he needed the bathroom. Unlike my guy “Sam,” who doesn’t have an issue when I hold the urinal cup for him to pee in, “Bill” had me lift him from his chair, help him drop trou and put him on the toilet. As I waited the first time for him to go, he looked up and said, “Could I have a little privacy?”

Of course, I gave it to him, so I stood outside the stall until I heard “OK, I’m done.” I didn’t make that same mistake the next two times. In face, because he’s about 100 pounds lighter than “Sam,” on our third trip to the john, I simply pushed his foot rests out of the way, wrapped my arms around his chest and lifted and moved him to the toilet.

Life continues to be a learning experience.


On Monday and Wednesday I was back to work with “Sam,” but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. He missed last week Wednesday with what he said was a cold, but he was still not his normal cheerful self this week Monday and Wednesday. About an hour before his class was scheduled to end, in fact, he tried calling his mom because of what he called “gastric issues.” Thank goodness he didn’t have to go No. 2 like he did at an earlier class. I don’t wanna do that again.


ArtPrize, an open competition for artists worldwide, began this week Wednesday in Grand Rapids. I entered the competition twice in the past five years mostly for fun, but now, especially since I’ve got more time, I’ve signed up to volunteer a number of times as a “Wayfinder,” one of those folks who wears an “ASK ME” bib. A couple of other times, I’m going to work in “The Hub,” a site whose title is self-explanatory, greeting people who walk in the door. It’s great fun for a people watcher like me. Plus, the other volunteers are quite awesome. Yes, it’s crowded in downtown Grand Rapids, but it’s a good thing.

This is year seven of ArtPrize and I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun.


The Lee Chronicles: Logging my first year of retirement

(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which where I live began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is Part 1 of what I hope to be a continuing series of “Life After Work(ing).”)

For a reason I will not divulge right here, right now, I have not worked at my job as an educator since the middle of November, 2014, so getting ready for retirement was more of an easing-into for me rather than a leap of faith. I was not forced into retiring; as a matter of fact, I had planned to make this move before the 2014-15 school year, but my wife talked me out of it. She said if I could handle four more years, I would be able to collect my full Social Security benefit.
But things happened and, I repeat, even though I was not forced to retire, the time was right to walk away from teaching.
As I have not been in the classroom since the previous November, I did not approach Opening Day, 2015, with any sort of anticipation or trepidation. I worked the past 15-plus years in Special Education, a program whose summer “Extended School Year” was eliminated in Michigan as of last year, so this summer was no different than last summer. I didn’t have to go to the classroom, but because my pay was pro-rated over 12 months instead of nine months, I still got paid every two weeks.
My Opening Day was different than past openers, but no different than any weekday of the past three months. But instead of sitting home and going over my “honey do” list, I drove my son to Lansing. He quit his job in favor of something less stressful, so he had to go clean out his office, then go to the county clerk’s office to file some personal papers. Then we headed home.
Well, we headed TOWARD home. On westbound I-96 just a few miles from where we entered at I-496, traffic was at a standstill. I mean, it was a three-lane parking lot. I remember seeing construction on that side as we headed into Lansing, but I’m thinking there must have been some sort of accident to stop traffic dead.
So we turned around through the “Emergency Vehicles Only” escape route, and found ourselves on Grand River Avenue, heading west to connect with M-100, which reconnected with I-96.
But wait! There’s a McDonald’s, let’s eat.
We got back on the freeway, but had to stop at the Lowell exit for gas as the “Low Fuel” light and the accompanying bing-bing-bing” alerted us that we might not make it home without stopping.
The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Later that night it turned eventful as my son drove the car back to Lansing to grab a couple of things he forgot, then returned home again Wednesday morning, only to inform me that we were low on gas again, but he could not get his ATM card to work and the Low Fuel light was already on before he got to our driveway. (Sigh.)
And that was it. The evening was routine as my wife and I watched the second semi-final of “America’s Got Talent” and I voted for two of the singers, “The Professional Regurgitator” and the ventriloquist. (No names here because I’m too lazy to look them up.)
My wife went to bed and I stayed up past 12:30 to watch (my) Detroit Tigers pull out an 8-7 win over Tampa in the 13th inning. That’s something I could not or would not do if I had to work in the morning. Ahhhhhhhhh.
I think I might like this new lifestyle.