As I was climbing my way up the stairs, a colleague who I hadn’t seen in a while was on her way down. She called out as we rushed past each other, “I haven’t seen you in a while; I thought you retired!” I called back “I’m still thinking about it!” I got to thinking about the drawing of stairs going in odd directions done by one of my second year medical students, which reminded me of Escher’s lithograph, “Relativity.”
Evelyn’s drawing was a part of her reflection on her learning experience at the beginning of her career as a physician. Increasingly, I reflect on my career as it draws to a close. So that retirement doesn’t come as a shock to my system, I pretend I’m retired on weekends off. It’s still difficult to do because I often have to work on projects like lectures during the only times I’m not running up and down the endless stairs at the hospital.
I sometimes imagine retirement might be like a long sigh…finally, time to catch my breath and look around after a long climb.
I look at my Donald Duck necktie and think of the grumpy old senior faculty member crossing me in the hall many years ago when I was an assistant professor. He took one long disapproving scowl at my funny tie and made a remark that led to my not wearing funny neckties for a long time.
I went back to wearing a few of my funny ties, eventually. I got older and less afraid of grumpy old senior faculty. And the grumpy old faculty is not so grumpy nowadays. I think he hardly notices my ties.
Many of my colleagues have moved their offices up to a higher level in the pavilion, far above me, way up on the 8th floor. I don’t feel left behind. Parts of my desk are so loose they come off in my hand if I’m not careful. My window, which until recently gave me a view of Kinnick Stadium across Hawkins Drive, is now black because the new Stead Family University of Iowa Children’s Hospital backs right up to me. I don’t begrudge Children’s Hospital.
And I hear the new 8th floor offices are small and windowless.
I have lost my mailbox since almost everyone moved upstairs. It’s an odd feeling not to see my name on any of the mailbox slots, especially since they were moved only just across the hall. Why should I think about it? It’s just a little mailbox, hardly big enough to hold any mail.
I climb 8 floors just to see the new offices. I’ve decided not to look at any of them. I know only what the new conference room for the Psychosomatic Medicine Interest Group (PMIG) looks like.
It’s very nice. I’m only a little out of breath as I reach it.
I wonder about leisure and purpose as my wife and I eat Culver’s sundaes (with a coupon to buy one and get one free), gazing out at the traffic growling along Highway 1 and watching the odd plane buzz in to the Iowa City Municipal Airport. It’s big effort to avoiding talking shop.
There are just a couple of steps up to the door into our house, leading in from the garage.
I pretended to be retired as we climbed the stairs up the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. and looked across the Reflecting Pool at the Washington Monument, which we didn’t get a chance to see from the inside.