It was my decision to retire,
There are other things I want to try.
So why am I looking at my almost empty office
Fighting a compelling urge to cry?
I’ve been teaching college students
For more than 40 years
Passing on a love for knowledge
While quelling their many fears.
I’ve done research I’m proud of
And published it to share
With others in the profession
And policy makers who care.
I like to think my work has mattered
That I’ve helped improve the lives
Of the students in my classes
And some military wives.
I look at the recycling
Outside my office in the hall
So many years of papers
Form a pile a tree height tall.
Memories rise from the committee files
Paper traces of time and effort spent
To change things for the better.
Is this where my life went?
The walls are white and barren
Only picture hangers to stay
I’ve cleared my last belongings out
To take them home today.
I mulled it over last night
As I tried to fall asleep
How to manage transporting
The items I’d want to keep.
The precious photos of my family
Wouldn’t take up very much space
But the plaques on the wall would
And the mirror I used to check my face.
I took a rolling suitcase
For the awards from the wall.
Is this what’s left of all that work?
I hope my legacy’s not so small.
I wanted to retire
I did it in my time
But I’m leaving some of myself
In this room I’ve left behind.
My identity as professor
And active researcher too
Are moving into history
Another life passage to move through.
I haven’t really missed them
As I’ve had the office for another year
But as I wheel my suitcase out
Here comes another tear.
I’ve left the memories behind me
Emotions boiling when I get home
So I grab a piece of paper
And try to purge them in a poem.
I’ve never done this before
There’s always a first time
Perhaps it will feel better
To get it written into rhyme.
It helps for a while now
But I’m still feeling really down
Thinking of the suitcase
Locking away all of that renown.
When my husband’s home at last,
We go to our cozy basement den.
Together we hang the awards there
And for each I remember when.
He tells me he judges
Much of my work to be great.
He knows I’ve worked my heart out
The suitcase is now empty
Because the plaques are on the wall
Where I can see them and remember.
Then a tear of joy starts to fall.