I. Last Day of Work

(Eagle River, WI. April 13, 2013) On my last day of work, I felt like a prison camp hostage about to make a run for it. And I almost made it without incident. Late in the afternoon, two staff suddenly appeared at my door. With Cheshire cat smiles, making a few nondescript comments, they nervously handed over a small wrapped package and card.

I wanted to say what I was really thinking: chastise them for being part of the vast conspiracy, putting up a barrier to anything I’d tried to accomplish. Nearly everyone had made darn sure what, in a normal office, would have taken three steps to accomplish, took six or seven in this den of crazy dysfunction. Now a gift! I wanted to throw it out the window. But I was a good girl. For the last time.

The card was signed by several coworkers though the leaders of the plot against me hadn’t, of course. I unwrapped a blank book, a journal. Wasn’t this something I’d use in my writing, they asked. Oh, I thought, here’s where I can write all my poisonous thoughts about this dreadful job and the awful people I’ve had to deal with for the last eight years. What was most galling was that one of these two women standing before me now was one of the three I’d marked as architects of the most cruel thing anyone has ever done to me in the workplace.

My appointment book was taken off my desk. Only staff and clients with appointments could get into the office so it had to be an inside job. That day, I knew there were lots of jokes and laughter: there she goes again. Karin can’t keep track of anything.

Eight months later my appointment book was found by a woman taking a walk down a country road. She and her daughter saw the pages fluttering in the wind on that early spring day. She commented that the book “was never meant to be found,” since it’d been flung far off the road into the woods.

The book was a mess, tattered and smelly from being out in the elements for such a long time. At the next staff meetings, I brought out the book and told the story of its discovery. The response was interesting. Lots of eyes darting around, furtive staring and looking down.

In my mind, I’d narrowed it down to three people who I thought were capable of such a thing. Body language is so revealing. I then simply said I just wanted everyone to be reminded to keep their things safe because we have so many people who come in and out of our offices. End of discussion.

I took the high road with my staff that day and am satisfied I acted like a professional up to the end. And now on my last day, I just thanked those women for the gift and watched the clock until closing time.

My office was already cleaned out so all I had to do was put on my coat and walk out the door. I’d been clear with my boss that I didn’t want a retirement party. Those things only force people to be insincere, I’d said. Most of the office hadn’t even said goodbye. They were more than happy to be rid of me, the worst supervisor on the planet. At least that’s what they all thought, they who’d never before had a boss who had expectations of them.

I’d always been one who felt retirement was for someone else. But I’d already worked two years beyond full retirement age when, suddenly one day, I felt the time was right. A thought lurked that perhaps I was running away from this no-win situation. Was I doing the right thing? Would I regret this in a month or two? Only time would tell.

But lets’ really mix things up. To toast my retirement, I was meeting that night for a drink and dinner with my ex-husband who’d surfaced once again. He’d broken up with his woman, the one he’s been connecting with as my moving van was pulling out of our driveway. Now, he wanted to talk.

I’d been skeptical when he called, then thought what the heck. It’s not like I had plenty of options in this closed up community and it would be nice to go out for a change. So, following the rules of on-line dating, I drove myself to a local sports bar. There he was, right on time. We sat off on the veranda away from the TV sets and noise.

We’d divorced two and a half years earlier but I’d never been completely out of touch with him. You can’t really be out of touch in a small town where everyone knows the whereabouts and activities of everyone else. On top of that, over these two and a half years, he’d come around several times wanting to talk about his unhappiness, putting out feelers about getting back together. A smoker in my office (smokers had to stand out in the parking lot for their regular fixes), had reported he drove by the office a lot. I told her not to worry. I wasn’t being stalked but the whole thing was confusing.

I didn’t know what I wanted. Equally important, I wasn’t sure he knew what he wanted. I’d decided that I was going to sit back and see what would happen. After what I’d been through, I wasn’t sure I could ever trust him or if it was possible to forget and go back.

Men are like buses. I can’t remember where I first heard this phrase. I also can’t imagine where the additional verses came from. Possibly from my own imagination. But they make such sense: Men are like buses…..If you miss one, another one will come along…….If you wait long enough, the same one comes around again…….Just because the same one comes around, doesn’t mean you have to board.

Following my divorce in 2010, I wasn’t waiting exactly. I was just trying to adjust to my new life. I’d decided I needed time to myself and the worst thing would be to jump in with someone new. The total opposite of his way of coping. Now this uncertainty was bunched together with my anticipation of adjusting to retirement and the indecision about staying here or moving from this area. He’d been the reason I’d moved here. So, now what? Build a new life. Find out who I am. Those were my goals.

That night he was his usual polite and respectful self. He knew how to make a good first impression. I recalled that from our initial meeting, oh so many years ago. But I reminded myself how things had changed during the seventeen years of our marriage. And he’d thrown it all away in a rather haphazard manner. Not sure if I wanted to get back on that bus again.

When we’d finished, he walked me to my car and kissed me on the cheek. He always was a gentleman. He’s be calling again. Of that I was sure. When I got home, I settled in for the night and watched my usual TV programs knowing I didn’t have to set an alarm or go back to the job from hell. I felt a sense of peace but in the back of my head knew important choices and decisions were lining up. I’d savor the serenity of this night and worry later.

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