I’m a retired gentleman. Let me rephrase that – I’m a retired man (lest there’s any argument regarding my gentleman pedigree) I’m retired quite a while now. And I love it. In fact I should have retired at twenty one! (kidding, kidding) Not that I was unhappy in my job (a teacher) far from it. I loved it. Absolutely. From the age of twelve I always wanted to be a teacher. And, strangely enough, I blame the toughest, most terrifying teacher I ever had for my vocation because that’s what it was for me: a vocation. I loved the job. Period.
As for that vocation and the terrifying teacher well his name was Brother Grennan, known to all and sundry as ‘Jack’ because of his resemblance to the American actor Jack Palance, a tough character, as those of you who know of him will concede. But not as tough as ‘Jack’ Grennan who put the fear of God in his pupils every minute of every hour of every day of every school year we spent under his jurisdiction. And I spent two school years under ‘Jack’s’ jurisdiction. I’ll never forget the last day of our stay in 5th class in the CBS primary school (a school, by the way, where I received a sound and solid education for which I am ever grateful) as ‘Jack’ Grennan who had been teaching us for the past year, announced (and I’ll never forget his words) ‘Lads I have some great news for you – I’ll be teaching you again next year.’ A dark cloud descended, descended? no, sir, a dark cloud engulfed each and every one of us in that classroom, sucking the joy out of the summer holidays ahead which we were so looking forward to. Another year with ‘Jack’! We had no choice but to get on with it. But not everyone; the boy sitting beside me throughout 5th class, never showed up in the CBS again! And I’ve strayed a long way away from retirement, the initial subject of this column, but I may carry on if only to explain how I acquired a vocation for teaching thanks to a terrifying teacher!
One day during my tenure as a 6th class pupil under ‘Jack’s’ jurisdiction, he looked thoughtfully around the class and eventually said: ‘Morans’ (which is how he always addressed me) come with me.’ And I did. Of course. A teacher had phoned in to say he’d be late and ‘Jack’ (the Principal, by the way) decided to place me in charge (temporarily) of that teacher’s second class. ‘If they so much as make a sound’, ‘Jack’ said to me, ‘send them to me.’ And they didn’t. Like us all they were scared, you know what, to even blink. And I got bored just standing there doing nothing so I took a stick of chalk and drew a face (I was handy at drawing and in another life I might well have been a Ramie Leahy or Gerard Casey) on the blackboard and wrote ‘srón’ and ‘cluas’ beside the nose and ear and got the children to say them. I even got them to sing a song. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. And there and then the seed of my vocation was sown. And all thanks to the brutish, Brother ‘Jack’ Grennan!
And now, after a lifetime teaching, I am retired and people occasionally ask: ‘How do you spend your day?’ And I give them, one and all, the same, honest, transparent answer: ‘I don’t even tell my wife that.’ Which brings me nicely to my wife who has recently retired and who asks me: ‘What’s our plan for today?’ ‘Plan!’ I reply, in a modicum of amazement. ‘We’re retired for Godsake, the plan is not to have a plan. The plan is to relax and enjoy.’ My wife makes no reply but looks a little puzzled (she hasn’t got the hang of retirement yet) And here are some interesting observations regarding retirement that I came upon recently and that I thoroughly enjoyed: ‘The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off. Now you’re as free as the breeze – with less income. Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it. Life begins at retirement. Retirement means no pressure, no stress unless you play golf.
Retirement – a time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it and how you want to do it. Retirement can be a great joy if you can figure out how to spend time without spending money. When you retire you switch bosses – from the one who hired you to the one who married you. Retirement is the time when you never do all the things you intended to do when you were still working.’ And this retiree will second that.