First, a few lines about Texas weather from On the Road:

Great clouds of gritty wind blew at us from shimmering spaces.

Nightfall seemed like a million miles away as we resumed for Coleman and Brady — the heart of Texas, only, wildernesses of brush with an occasional house near a thirsty creek and a fifty-mile dirt road detour and endless heat.

We were all red-eyed from the continual mistral-winds of old Tex-ass.

That crazy cat Jack Kerouac! Tried every mind-altering substance known to humankind, fried all the neural circuits in his frontal cortex, reddened and embloatened his facial features with alcohol, and could still write deadly accurate smack about Tex-ass.

Blistering heat continues indefinitely, no end to the drought, and no jet-setting escapes to cooler climes for some of us who are already locked into multiple lectures and four- to five-hour anatomy lab sessions. Never mind … let’s talk about something more pleasant, like those in the tribe of academe who, through their long years of intellectual and physical toil, have earned some relaxing retirement. Two such individuals of my acquaintance have reached this milestone: one a few years early, and the other several more years late (usual retirement age in the US is 65, though that will soon change to 67, and eventually to 70 or 72 years). Recently, I and a couple of my colleagues lightheartedly contrasted the characters of the two retirees.

Retiree #1 is an eminent researcher in her field, trained numerous successful, productive postdocs and grad students, maintained continuous NIH funding, and has been a delightful, generous research collaborator and mentor for many of her colleagues, including myself. That reminds me, I have another manuscript to write this year. She and her (also retired) scientist husband have a beautiful, spacious house not far from mine; theirs is perched on a high hill, and includes several acres of natural semiarid Texas wood pasture. They also have a spacious newly-built home in a foreign country, which I have not ever visited. But the house here in town is filled with collections of artwork, exotic plants, and lovely souvenirs of their many travels. Retiree #1 is gregarious, effusive, and hosts parties, for graduating students and nest-leaving postdocs, which are replete with good wine, expensive cheeses, and other luxurious foods and drinks. For her retirement party, Retiree #1 was very forthcoming and very specific about the gift(s) she wanted, down to species and source. From me, she requested a specific handmade item, and I was happy to oblige.

Retiree #2 has had a very different career path in which professional school (medical and dental) teaching predominates. He is laconic and precise in his speech and writing, and is what would be best be described as ascetic of mien. Retiree #2 is the sort for whom it is difficult to plan a party, because his diet is limited and ascetic (by choice), and even those who have worked with him for decades know very little about him outside of the university. Fortunately, his wife has been helpful in party planning, but the only material item that Retiree #1 desires as a gift costs less than the usual individual faculty donation to such a fund. His house, which is also close to mine (none of us is the long commute type), is much more modest (I’m told) than the one on the high hill, and he and his wife also own wilderness property near a local state natural area. I’ve been out there for a picnic lunch, and there’s a small cabin, very spartan, on the property. In many ways it’s easier for me to talk with Retiree #2 and his wife, as I certainly haven’t had a high-flying research career, and I have more in common with them in terms of inexpensive, local interests in gardening, crafts, and wildlife. But Retiree #1 has been a supportive collaborator and a much-treasured mentor for me, and her absence is keenly felt. Retiree #2 plans to continue teaching at the university without pay, and I’m also grateful to him for sharing his contributions to a course I now direct. He has also been a mentor, but more by example, than by active engagement. It takes all types in academia, and I will miss them both.

No photos of the retirees, of course, so I offer instead two gratuitous puppy photos. They are 7.5 months old now, and clearly not pure Pomeranian. Part dachshund, mebbe?





This entry was posted in academia and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Retirements

  1. cromercrox says:

    I don’t plan to retire. Ever. I’d go mad.

Comments are closed.