Friday, May 28, 2010

Last day

Ever since I got here -- and for more than a decade before that -- our administrative assistant Glenda has been the repository of all expertise, all wisdom, and all knowledge in our department. Today was her last day at work. And it's truly the end of an era.

Despite the numerous tributes and events throughout this spring celebrating her time with us, I doubt any of us have really processed what it will mean to be without her. I know I haven't. As I said goodbye this afternoon in her suddenly bare office, devoid of the photographs, postcards, and knickknacks that hundreds of students have given her over the years, none of it seemed quite real. I know I'll be back at work on Tuesday, and in the weeks and months to come, thinking every so often, "Oh, Glenda would know" or "I need to ask Glenda about ..." before remembering.

As hard as it will be on us, it will be harder on Glenda. And these moments always make me think of my own retirement someday. What will my emotions be? What will I regret, what will I look forward to? Will I step aside with grace, with resentment, with fear, with relief? With each retirement I witness, I try to learn lessons about how to do it right. But it's hard to imagine that those memories will be stronger than whatever the psychological or social forces that will buffet me at the time. Retirement is a strange phenomenon of our age. There's probably no way to handle it perfectly. We can only hope not to erase the goodwill of decades by our demeanor as we exit.

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