Accepting Retirement

Accepting Retirement

CHAPTER 31 – Accepting Retirement

I just could not keep the idea of retirement from teaching out of my head. At nights I would dream of teaching, of teaching possibilities in Australia, of new challenges, of past classroom episodes. Aubynne and I looked for teaching work. Aubynne soon achieved her desire to teach English to foreign students, while I set about applying for teaching positions in Catholic schools in Sydney. It took three job interviews to realise that things were totally different here: not only the curriculum, but the whole school, staff, administration, assessment and student environment. I would not be able to walk into a History class and just start teaching – winging it. Perhaps I should just accept that I was retired.

So I became a house-husband supporting Aubynne. To my surprise and pleasure I loved it: cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing, setting-up house, and planning the day.

Aubynne’s health took a turn for the worse: increasing signs of kidney failure, concomitant with hypertrophic cardio myopathy HCM. Aubynne was forced to retire and there was a real danger that she would soon be put on dialysis. Dominic, our second son, generously paid for air fares for us both to visit Italy before her condition declined. Aubynne had yearned to see Italy unencumbered with student teenagers and a tour guide. Furthermore, we made it a pilgrimage for our family. On return from the trip, Aubynne’s kidney readings had returned to 25 rather than the 15 marking dialysis preparation levels, despite the physical stress of the trip itself. Deo gratias, and thanks to our patron and favourite saints.

By chance, an acquaintance after Mass one day, complained that he needed a database manager urgently. I volunteered. It would be part time. Aubynne could no longer work. And so I was to work for the next two years as a secretary, a receptionist, and work on database, total new web site, product development, packaging … This Catholic charity of Australia Needs Fatima quickly brought me into the Australian world. I talked to Australian-wide members, and learnt across-state phone numbers, and the multitude of very little things which every Australia learns unconsciously. More importantly, I learnt something about myself. I found myself counselling distressed members, who shared with me all kinds of personal issues: war with councils, priests, and neighbours; the needs of widows, the disconsolate, many of them their wonderful devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady. It was a much-needed humbling experience.

Coming up to 70, it was time to really retire. Time needed nurturing. The cello beckoned. I might have time to write: memoirs, and a fantasy novel, perhaps. Most of all enjoying Aubynne’s company at the Café Belle in Enfield, the walks in Henley Park, watching old films, old English BBC TV serials, family visits, especially of the grandchildren, and occasional balcony gardening.

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