By Rachel Stein | rachels83@gmail.com

Emerald eyes glistening, Marci sat in her seat of honor and pasted a smile on her face while rivers of emotion roiled just beneath the surface. Fifty years, a lifetime, really. And now they were coming to a close, relegated to poignant memories frozen among the pages of time.

It was touching that the entire staff and parent body had decided to pay tribute for her decades of devotion to her students. And so she would play the part, graciously accepting their

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein

acknowledgments of appreciation, the bronze plaque that would adorn her beige living room wall, and the stunning album encapsulating precious moments from a career that had breathed life and vibrancy into her days.

Tears, stay at bay. You’ll have your time later when we have privacy, Marci told herself silently. For now, lift your head with a perfect combination of humility and pride, and step away from the institution where you nurtured and raised generations with endless patience, devotion and love. Poise and grace, Marci. Thatta girl.

When the sun’s rays brushed her shoulders the next morning, Marci glanced at her bedside alarm clock and leapt out of bed.

“Seven-thirty already? I mustn’t be late!” Rushing into the kitchen, she began brewing her morning coffee.

And suddenly she remembered. She was no longer a veteran teacher. She was retired, put out to pasture, a relic. They didn’t need her stimulating lessons or creative methods anymore. A fresh-faced young teacher would stand in her place, gently coaxing her young charges to achieve their goals.

Sinking heavily onto a cushioned chair, Marci leisurely sipped her coffee and wondered. What will I do today? Where will I go? Shopping, cooking and laundry are all worthy possibilities, but to fill a day? Or what about those long-overdue medical appointments?

Somehow none of the prospects was overly appealing.

The phone jarred her from her reverie, and she eagerly picked up the receiver.

“Hi, Mom, good morning. How’s the first day of retired life treating you?”

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Marci said, injecting cheer into her voice. “What a treat! A whole day in front of me to use for anything I want.”

“Sorry to interrupt, Mom, but the baby just started crying. I’d better feed him and drop him off at the baby sitter. Think of me hard at work while you’re relaxing. Maybe get a manicure or something. You’ve earned it.”

“Thanks, honey. Have a great day. Love you.”

Clutching the phone to her ear, Marci listened to the dial tone for a long moment before reluctantly putting it down. As if Amy would come back on the line if she held on long enough. But no, the rest of the world, her daughter included, had important things to accomplish today.

Glancing through the window, she watched streams of people climbing in and out of cars and moving purposefully toward their destinations. Oy. It might be time for another cup of coffee.

Within the hour, Marci joined throngs of shoppers, carefully selecting produce and other household items.

“How are you?” the cashier asked brightly as she tallied the purchases.

Lonely. Bored. Depressed. Feeling like a has-been.

“Great, thanks. And you?” Marci asked.

“Outstanding. Thank you for asking. You have yourself a wonderful day.”

“You, too.”

Marci wished the conversation wouldn’t end just yet. Couldn’t they talk about the weather or grandchildren or something?

Now, Marci, get a hold of yourself. What would you tell a friend in this position? Stay productive, of course! Why, there are a million things you can do! Join a gym, volunteer, take a class …

Heaving the groceries inside, Marci began putting everything away. But when she looked at the clock, its face seemed to mock her, and she sighed. It was only 11 o’clock in the morning. This was going to be a long day.

  • • •

As a certified chaplain and coordinator of Bikur Cholim of Atlanta, a society that assists families with medical needs, I know Marci’s situation is not unique in our aging population. Do you have suggestions for Marci? Readers are invited to email me and offer guidance, encouraging her to make the most of her new situation.