Feb. 18, 2022 – Friday – Mick’s last day as a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Tomorrow, he will be known as professor emeritus. Yesterday, we cleaned out the last bits of stuff from his office. He’s been tossing out stuff for weeks, so there were only a few boxes’ worth of things to load into his car. It didn’t take long and there was no one around that we saw. In, out, gone. When I thought about how Mick and I met near the doorway to that very office, back in the 1990s when I was a University employee, single parent, and part-time college student, I got tears in my eyes. End of an era. Damn.
At least tonight, our kids will be over and we’ll all be together.
Feb. 19, 2022 – Saturday – Mick has his first nap by 9:30 a.m. There was much debate last night about how many naps a day Mick will take now that he’s retired. I sent a quick picture of him snoozing to my son Shawn, told him he should get credit for guessing more naps than Mick admitted to.
Friends over for the evening. Thank god. We laughed our asses off.
Feb. 20, 2022 – Sunday – Up at 5:30, out the door around 6:30, up north to see if we could see owls. Nope. Lots of other birds. Lots of snow. Into the ditch at one point; snowy roads, slick surfaces. Tow truck guy was very nice and the car was fine, so we continued on. Still no owls.
Feb. 22, 2022 – 2/22/22 – Twosday – Sitting at my desk on a snowy Tuesday. First week of Mick’s retirement.
Emotional morning. Watched a video compilation from all kinds of people with whom Mick worked, supervised, mentored, collaborated. Messages poured in from all over the world. By the end, we were both choked up. While Mick continued in a Google Meet with colleagues who put the video together, I came upstairs and cried.
The weekend was great, though. Family. Friends. A drive up north. Laughter. Love. Pie.
When did we get to be old? There’s still too much to do. Even two years ago, this moment seemed very far away. Yet here we are.
I don’t write in my private journal much anymore. There was a time when I did so nearly every day; it was what kept me sane when I had kids at home, was in grad school, trying to write, and was often unsuccessful at balancing everything. Later, I switched to a gratitude journal; this taught me to look at the world for what went right rather than what went wrong. I’m still working on that one, but the shift in my outlook is significant. Anyway, today I feel like both journals might be useful right about now as Mick and I navigate a life in which huge daily connections and responsibilities are now gone. It is Mick’s retirement from work, yes, but it flows into what is us, our conversations, our time management as a couple, our travel, happy hours, sharing of stresses. Often, we talk about the overlap of creativity and science, ways that the writing we each do – or did – is similar and how it is different. I’m a little startled at how intertwined I feel as Mick separates himself from University teaching and research.
Having been home together most of the time since the pandemic shut everything down has made our transition very different from that of our parents or others retirees we know. We’ve already figured out how to do our own things within this space and not get in each other’s way. And maybe some of that intertwined feeling I’m having is because now we’ve seen, up close, details about how we each do our work, details that used to be contained in Mick’s office on campus while mine were done in a home office in an empty house. I’ve heard enough lab remote meeting snippets to know that Mick is a kind, caring colleague who will be missed. I like his colleagues. Having them all appear on a screen in our living room most weekday mornings has made for a comfortable virtual community. It reminded me that I liked having my own colleagues around in other jobs I held long ago.
I’m grateful that Mick is going to attend Tuesday morning remote lab meetings for a while, keeping up on student progress, on grant progress, whatever else those meetings involve. I can’t imagine a world without these carefully tended connections, without this community of people who are doing good work.
That said, there are other kinds of community, some we already have and some we’ve yet to discover. And the whole world is shifting as I write this, war erupting in Ukraine, forcing us to look once again beyond our own small lives. Retirement may not look anything like we thought it might even last week. These communities we’ve held close, built up, are more fragile than we usually admit. I wasn’t going to talk about the beginnings of a war here, in this space that is a refuge, but knew I couldn’t leave it unacknowledged.
My drawer of blank journals is waiting for me to open it, choose a new journal just for this moment. Another kind of refuge. Another space to imagine how I want to be in this world. Another opportunity for figuring out how to do more good than bad.
Speaking of Doing Good Work….
Recently, a woman reached out to me through the contact form at One Minnesota Crone, asking about collaborating on something to-be-determined. She shared she’ll be turning 50 soon. I was pleased to see her email, but unsure how to proceed. This was someone I’d never met, never corresponded with, so saying yes to a collaboration was not going to happen on my end just yet. After much thought, I decided interviewing her felt right. That way, both of us could get a feel for how we each work and I could promote her photography website, which I like quite a lot, at the same time. I also got clear in my own mind that I’m not interested in on-going collaborations, but one-time collaborations could work well.
How do those of you out there who collaborate choose those with whom you work? What sorts of one-time collaborations have you done that surprised you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
And, if you are interested in contacting me for a potential interview about your own creative work in a future One Minnesota Crone post, please contact me HERE.