Impending retirement prompts questions

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It is one week until the curtain comes down on my music teaching career. I don’t think about it much because of the events filling my schedule during these last hectically busy days of the school year.

Retirement.

A word I’ve thought about infrequently, until two or three years ago when I became aware that my birthdays were mounting up into my seventh decade. As a bona-fide member of the boomer generation I found myself contemplating the near future. How much longer would I continue my music teaching vocation, which began 46 years ago?

Like dawn slowly stealing up on a newly minted day, realization gradually began to come that perhaps it was time to think about moving on in life.

Accordingly, last year I gave thought to concluding my occupation as an educator. My wife and I batted the subject back and forth. I discussed it with my Dad and the principal at school. 

Was there any particular reason for retiring? Not one that stands out with any certain clarity. I was enjoying my job and community involvements.

However, at the end of last summer, rather like the instinctive urges that tell birds to migrate, I just knew it was time for me to make the decision to retire. 

To what? Ah, yes; to what?

Once I made the decision, told my school principal and it became public knowledge, the questions from friends, acquaintances and school families began. 

“So, did I hear that you are retiring?”

“Yes.”

“Is your wife retiring, also?”

“No.”

“Are you moving away?”

“No.”

“Does your wife have a “honey-do” list?

“Not yet”.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m not exactly sure. I plan to continue with my four church and community musical groups, hope to have more grandparent time, volunteer and maybe have a part-time job. And there are things around the house and yard that have been on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.”

“Well,” (this sage advice from retirees), “keep active. It will help stave off Alzheimer's. And you will find that there just are not enough hours in the day to get everything done! But you can choose what you want to do or not do, and you can now take a nap without guilt!”

Other people ask if we are going on a cruise, which seems to be a pretty popular retiree event. Let me make this known right up front: We are NOT into cruises.

We were on a very rough crossing from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Nova Scotia on our honeymoon 42 years ago. We both had a huge bout of mal de mer, something we don't wish to repeat. And with the disasters on several cruise ships lately, we just don't feel that a cruise is our cup of tea.

But we do hope to travel occasionally. Our initial travel event, which will take place as soon as we can carve space into our schedules, is to go to Salem, Oregon, to meet our new granddaughter born last week, and to visit friends in La Center, Washington.  

I’ve decided that for the first year I will ease into this new experience, savoring each day.

Yes, I will surely miss my students, their families and my wonderful teaching colleagues, two of whom are also retiring. We have made a date to eat breakfast at the Maple Counter the day that our former fellow teachers and students start back to school.

So I look forward to exploring life outside of the prescribed boundaries that have been the foundation of my career for nearly a half century.

Stay tuned.

Terry Koch is retiring after 46 years of teaching music at the grade school, high school and college levels. This column will chronicle his thoughts and experiences as he steps into the life of a retiree. He can be reached at 509-529-6101 or terrko2@charter.net.

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