Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Today I submitted to my manager a Letter of Intent. I will retire in 90 days.

My original plan was to work for one more year, if only because the Social Security benefits are significantly higher. My pension won't be "fully vested" for another 15 years, and there's no way that I'm going to work that long ... nor would anyone in their right mind allow me to. But I thought that with the "reduced pension", and another year of contribution (from both myself and my employer), the total would allow me to continue to live in the life-style to which I have become accustomed. Although, I probably won't be spending $50 a month at the local Used Book Store, as is my current habit.

This plan, however, is a non-starter.

The past two years have been difficult. Sandie's extended illness has been emotionally, as well as physically, draining. I have watched her bowing her head, and I have crumbled at the sight like the wall on an old adobe building under severe weather.

Stress, depression, all have taken their toll. I've experienced several health issues .. my doctor has reluctantly attributed them all to stress.

These have had consequences. I've missed a lot of work, partly because of time I've felt that being available to help She were somehow more important than the mundane day-to-day duties of working for a living. Other times because I was sick ... more often because I was discouraged and heart-sick.

In the meantime, my IS department has changed the way they do business, entirely. New applications, new operating system, new scheduling system, new computers ... everything is new. My colleagues who show up every day take the classes, get the experience, and charge on. I, on the other hand, was either unavailable or ... was unavailable.

It's a new and vibrant working environment. I got behind, and didn't catch up.

After Sandie's death, after I took 5 weeks off on "Compassionate Leave" (but unpaid), I was behind on the few projects I had left. And looking at them last week, I realized that they required technical skills that I just didn't have.

Frankly, I didn't much care. And that bothered me.

I have been working since I was old enough to push a lawn mower ... which I did starting about age 12. I worked for people in the neighborhood who left on vacation, and hired me to cut their lawns and water. I got a job with a real estate agent doing this for a few properties during my 14th summer.

I worked summers in the wheat harvest, in the pea harvest (Did you know that Umatilla County grows 25% of the peas produced in the United States? It's a family thing: my mother use to work summers in the pea-cannery in Pendleton, Oregon. After that time, she never ate another pea; after my two summers, neither did I.)

For a couple of years, I worked after school and Summers for two years at a Caterpillar Tractor parts house.

Minimum wage jobs, all, but I needed to find something that paid more before I started college.

My parents couldn't afford college tuition, but they could co-sign a Student Loan for me.

When I turned 18, I spent summers working in the Wood Products Industry. I did the jobs nobody else wanted to do, and the summer when I was 18 I worked swing shift at a "Unfinished Furniture" factory in a small town new where I lived.

Then I started college, first at Eastern Oregon college in LaGrande, later at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

My brother-in-law worked for the National Biscuit Company ("Nabisco" .. makers of saltines, snack crackers, etc.) He got me a summer-relief job taking over routes for salesmen in the Willamette Valley area. I spent a couple of summers doing that.

After graduation, I got married, and six days later reported for induction to the U.S. Army. I spent two years at that, with a starting wage of $102/month. One year in training, one year in Viet Nam as a Staff Sgt (E-6).

In 1970 I left the army, took a 6-month in Computer Programming (COBOL, BASIC, RPG) and somehow found a job as a courier for a Computer Service Bureau in Oakland, California. Started at the bottom (at $405/month); and shortly after I had worked my way up to a Programmer job, I moved with my wife to Portland, Oregon, where I had found a programmer job with Freightliner, Corporation at the grand salary of $1,000+/month.

I worked there for a while ... 14 years. Finally was RIFFED in 1994. Started (and failed at) a Contract Programmer business, but somehow got a 4 month contract with Oregon State University. Completed that successfully, then was later hired by OSU for a "real" (full employment) job based at least partly on the successful completion of my earlier contract. And there I have remained for 14 years, 11 months.

Sounds just like a resume', doesn't it? And in a way it is, because I have no other way to talk about the concept that I have worked all my life, for over 50 years, and now I have voluntarily determined that the best thing for me is to NOT continue working.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with my time. I've worked my whole life; I have no experience with not-working. I am not qualified for the non-job.

My best guess is that I will let myself go, as Liza Minelli said in the song. Then I'll get myself back together and find other things to do.

The Japanese (or is it the Chinese?) have a cultural history, I am told, of a man working productively until it is time for him to stop, then giving away his property and becoming a Budhist Monk; wandering the land with his begger-bowl and saffron robe, searching for rice and enlightenment.

I don't guess I'm going to do that. Although I admit I am curious where I will find either rice, or enlightenment.

Or I may end up living under a bridge with the hobos. I hope not. That has been a long-standing joke between myself and a co-worker. It seems less funny now, but really I hope that I can dig deep into the resources of my soul and find something worthwhile to do.

In the final analysis, it's an exciting new chapter in my life. I've always accumulated "things" (usually books). Now I have the opportunity to restructure my life, my self-image (which has been sorely wounded by my realization that I am no longer productive. and need to opt out of the sense of being a "contributor" which has characterized my day-to-day life for over 50 years).

I can be whomever and whatever I want ... within certain restrictions, which I wonder how to define, let alone accommodate.

The situation also offers opportunities.

I have long regretted that I am unable to spend time with my grandchildren, who live with their parents (my children) 1500 miles away in San Diego. Can I move to California (which state I dislike intensely because of the politics there, but not really not all that different from Oregon)? Is it worth it to me? Can I be a positive influence on them, when I missed most of my children's development because of divorce when they were very young?

Or am I merely indulging myself in a certain degree of Angst, because I have to do something that I have never done before?

I don't know the answers to these, and many other questions which occur to me just now. It's all new to me.

Isn't that exciting?

I can't wait to see what happens next in my life.

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