Bored in Retirement? No Way!
by Peter Kravitz
For the first time in 32 years, my September and October weren’t defined by grading essays, planning lessons, waking up at 5 a.m., and then elbowing a tattooed social studies teacher away from the copy machine for that last-minute idea for my first-period class.
I’m still writing college recommendations for Class of 2021 students. But I’m free. I recently visited my 88-year-old mom and caught up with friends from my youth after a weekday drive to my Pennsylvania hometown.
I put in my retirement papers on March 1. Less than two weeks later, the Nassau County Board of Health shut down the Wantagh School District because a single parent had been confirmed with COVID-19. My last day in my high school classroom was 24 hours before our school would have held its annual Sportsnite — a 1950’s throwback to a sports and dance competition for girls from the time when they were denied participation in interscholastic athletics.
All spectators had been banned from that event, yet, had it taken place on March 13, it might have been a COVID-19 superspreader. I felt terrible for all the girls who had worked so hard for Sportsnite 2020, but its cancellation probably saved lives.
Nonetheless, in April, a fellow Wantagh coaching colleague, Tony Carter, an assistant coach for the football team, did die from COVID-19. Carter, who was 57, didn’t teach. He worked at a Long Island Hospital and had a pre-existing inflammatory lung disease. His outstanding defensive coaching contributed to Wantagh reaching the county playoff semifinals in nearly each of his 18 years, according to the team’s head coach Keith Sachs.
Carter is one of the nearly 230,000 Americans who have lost their lives to this virus in nine months.
I’m saddened by that loss of life and for folks struggling with a damaged economy. And, while it might seem trivial in comparison, the pandemic has forced me to adapt my retirement plan.
I had intended to co-coach Wantagh’s boys’ golf team for the 12th year this fall, but county athletic officials postponed all public-school fall sports seasons. I had hoped to workout at the gym, and, while gyms are open again, I haven’t ventured into mine yet. And my wife and I had planned to travel. We’ve explored five continents together and we looked to make Antarctica our sixth.
Of course, we aren’t going anywhere. We can’t even drive to Canada. Most countries are closed to Americans or only permit us enter if we immediately go into a long quarantine. The Balkans have few restrictions, but we’ve already visited beautiful Croatia and the stunning beaches of Montenegro. Albania welcomes Americans, but it’s not a must-see.
“Bored yet?” my wife enjoys saying.
No, I’m not bored. I’m loving my free time, despite my wife’s filling my e-mail inbox with job links. Though I am tutoring for homeworkhubtutoring.com, a job my wife discovered. I admit it’s good to teach kids again. I miss them.
Teaching made me feel young. When I was only 45 chaperoning a physics field trip to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, riding roller coasters and laughing with teenagers, I felt like one of them until I saw my reflection and thought, “Who is that old guy?”
Perhaps my most important retirement activity is writing a memoir. I’ve written three previous manuscripts, all unpublished. Hemingway called writing work. But nobody dictates my writing pace. I don’t have my 1980’s tabloid sports editor, Chic Riebel, waving a metal pica stick and demanding I hack out my article ahead of the midnight deadline. It’s fun telling my story but so easy to procrastinate and find something else to do.
I told one of my former students I was going to write about her. “Just don’t use my real name,” she said, panicked.
“You can’t write about my teenage years and attach my name.” In other words, now that she’s a mature, responsible adult, she doesn’t want her youthful wackiness detailed.
In my 28 years of teaching journalism and advising the school newspaper, this young lady was one of my best writers. She may have been the only student writer who understood how to get students, teachers, and even administrators to read her columns—and react.
In her most infamous page-2 piece, “Housewife? I Think Not,” she wrote: “The idea of waking up to the same person for the rest of your life . . . is just absurd . . . get a 9-to-5 job, get married and have kids: instant death . . . Now I realize that I’m offending every housewife in America, but I don’t really care. Maybe I’m saving lives.”
The piece landed her in the office of the female assistant superintendent, who was married with kids and owned a suburban home.
Today, that former teen columnist is a 38-year-old mother of three and housewife who lives in the suburbs. You can’t make up better irony. That’s why I prefer to write non-fiction.
Meanwhile, I haven’t gotten anywhere close to writing about her in the memoir. And hopefully a vaccine will appear, and my wife and I can get to Antarctica before it melts, in which case I might never get to relate that unnamed young lady’s story—or the stories of other students, many of whom would want me to name them.
Photo credit by author, Peter Kravtiz.