Music teaching’s siren song proves difficult to evade

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‘Hello, Terry. How’s your retirement doing?”  

Then, with very little pause for a response from me, “Say, now that you’re retired, I’m wondering if you would consider...?”

I was warned about this by retirees before I joined their ranks. They said it would be easy to find myself with an overly full schedule when people heard I was no longer working — at least not working at my paid job.  

In addition, I was told that the first time I answered “no” to a request was the most difficult. After that, the retired friends said, if I feel inclined to say “no” it will be easier. I’m listening to and trying to learn from them, as they are experienced about this retirement business.

So I considered the further suggestions given me of not agreeing to take on many activities and commitments for a while so that I could slide slowly into this new aspect of my existence. I’m told this is a time to adjust and not ramp up my involvements.

However, one activity I find sumptuously pleasurable is reading. Perhaps I will be able to indulge in my reading pastime more often now that my days are not filled with the duties of my former teaching vocation.  

I thought at first that it would be wonderful this summer to get accustomed to sleeping in after so many years of getting up earlier than the sunrise. Although I find myself staying up later, my brain has not seemed to cooperate with this plan to luxuriate in dreamland under the covers longer than I used to during working days. I suppose it will take a while for my body to adjust itself to this new time frame. But hope springs eternal.

I don’t know what my subconscious was trying to tell me, but recently I dreamed twice about teaching. Maybe it is because I visited the school where my daughter-in-law is a music teacher and helped her prepare things for the new school year ahead.

I do know that when I was in my daughter-in-law’s music rooms I felt a tingle of excitement, as if I were going to a new teaching position. I reflected on that, saying, “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” as I reminded myself that although I am retired, it does not mean my interest in my life vocation has come to a shuddering conclusion.

I am grateful for the years of mission that I experienced as an educator, and now am also grateful that I can pass on benefits of those years to my daughter-in-law. 

I was encouraged by my retired friends to become a volunteer. I’m not one to sit around idly twiddling my thumbs, so to begin my entrance into the world of volunteering I participated as an assistant at a Vacation Bible School. 

You may recall the interesting weather vagaries we had during the last week of June. This happened to be the one-and-the-same week that Vacation Bible School was held outside. The first night it was precipitating with a vengeance, so all 175 children, their parental and grandparental support groups and the host of the VBS staff crowded into the church fellowship hall and two other rooms.  

It was tumultuous but surprisingly well organized, considering it was a last-minute change to move the event from outdoors to inside. I was blessed to be paired with a group leader who did not seem to be fazed by anything out of the ordinary. Capable and unflappable, she did a wonderful job.  

As I thought of the tremendous amounts of time and energy expended to organize and present the Vacation Bible School, I was taken back in memory to school programs and concerts I have been responsible for prior to retirement. This made me kind of glad that this time, I was just an assistant, and not the CEO of the event.  

I’ve found that just about every day, some reason arises for me to have to go back to the school. Like a bee returning to its hive I seem to be drawn back to the place I spent 27 years. One parent saw me there and said with a smile, “What are YOU doing here? I thought you retired!”

Not a question I could answer easily. There just seem to be loose ends from my former job flapping around and the only way to care for them is to go back to my classroom. Only now I have to ask for a key to get into the room since I turned my keys in last month, thinking I was truly done. I guess not.

I’ve listened to retirees talk about the progress of their gardens. I have really never gardened except on a very small scale but have entertained fleeting thoughts of putting in a garden now that I have more time.

However, the fact is that our yard is pretty much shade-saturated under the leafy canopies of 10 trees. So there isn’t enough of the needed sunlight required for me to embark on what seems to me a prodigious effort involved in creating and maintaining a garden.

My wife and I come from families that were dedicated gardeners. I remember my parents and parent-in-laws spending much time diligently laboring as they sprayed for bugs, treated blight, weeded, watered, fertilized and pruned. However, then there was the joy of harvesting the delectable summer fare from all those vegetables and fruits.  

We have strawberry plants in pots on our deck and eagerly looked forward to feasting on the many berries that came on in early June. But we never got to savor even one berry. They all disappeared mysteriously. Berry burglars in our neighborhood? Squirrels or maybe birds, we suspect.

Given to me for Father’s Day by my son is a squash plant which I put in the one minuscule corner of my yard that does receive a bit of sun. That squash plant and a few tomato plants, a pot of chives, as well as the strawberry-less strawberries on our deck are the extent of my garden. But for now, keeping the lawn trimmed, keeping the weeds at bay and irrigating the flowers is as close to gardening as I am likely to get.

And besides. I need time to read another book. 

After I take a nap.

Stay tuned. 

Terry Koch is stepping into the life of a retiree after 46 years of teaching music at the grade school, high school and college levels. He can be reached at 529-6101 or terrko2@charter.net.

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