A Need for Early Retirement

Journey to Certification, Part 1:   In January, 2008, the beginning of my 32nd year as a California public school teacher, I decided to start doing some retirement planning. I had enough years in to retire at that time, but I wasn’t old enough. So, I made a five-year plan and set June 2013 as my retirement date. If I knew then what I know now, I may have retired in 2008.

In February 2008 my mother-in-law had a stroke at her home on the Pacific coast, over four hours away from where her middle son and I live. As her power of attorney, he was responsible for making sure she was taken care of, but it would be too difficult to manage that care from so far away. The stroke was not debilitating, but is was unsafe for her to drive or to live alone.After a short stint in the hospital and a month in rehab, we brought her to live with us. I worked out a reduced-day assignment with the district and became her primary caregiver. My husband hired someone part-time to help out while I was at school. Caring for her was not difficult physically, but it was trying emotionally. Both of us were strong, independent, alpha females, and we often butted heads. Nine years later, she is still with us. She has had more TIAs since then, especially in the last two years. She is more frail and demented, and caregiving has become more demanding in some ways. Yet, she accepts her circumstances and makes the best of them without complaint. Thank goodness.

Then, in September 2010, my middle sister Carol was diagnosed with a rare form of T-cell leukemia. She went into remission at least twice with chemotherapy, but the cancer was relentless. Eventually a bone marrow transplant was needed. In December 2012 our older sister and I flew to Denver, where Carol was being treated. We volunteered to be tested, on the outside chance that one of us could be her donor. In January 2013, while waiting for my husband to be taken in for a partial knee replacement, I received the call. I was a perfect match! Hallelujah!

Besides care-giving responsibilities at home and being needed by my sister, many other things were going on at this time, all of which would aid in my decision to retire in February of 2013 rather than in June. In 2010, my arthritis was throwing fits to the point that I went through a series of joint fluid injections and several weeks of physical therapy for foot and knee pain. After a bad fall, I had two separate surgeries to repair meniscus tears–first in one knee, then the other. In November 2011 our daughter Katherine gave birth to her first daughter. She had her second daughter in February 2013, while I was in Denver doing the prep work for the March bone marrow transplant.

Winter/Spring season of 2013 was shaping up to be a busy time. I was needed at home to care for my mother-in-law. I was needed in Denver to help my sister. I was needed in Southern California to help with a new granddaughter while her 15-month-old sister underwent eye surgery. I was needed to tend to my husband after a second partial-knee-replacement surgery in March. It would be impossible to be where I was needed and keep teaching. My family needed me. I met with my principal and district superintendent to explain the situation. They were both very understanding and agreed that “family comes first.” My last official day in the classroom was February 15, 2013. My life would never be the same.






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