Sunday, June 5, 2011

Holy Moly, Has Katja Actually Retired?

At Tuesday’s Retirement Luncheon

Dear George,

Katja’s worked continuously since she was a teenager. When we met at college in the mid-1950’s, I didn’t have a clear sense of women working at all. Most of the women in my family’s social circle were wives and mothers, and dual career couples were rare. Katja, on the other hand, had grown up in more cosmpolitan Philadelphia, her mother Helen worked as a hospital dietician throughout her life, and Katja was firmly committed to having a full-time career. She’d worked for her dad’s veterinary practice in high school, was a server at the college inn as an undergrad, helped support us through graduate school as a saleswoman at a local fabric store, and then began teaching high school and later college French after we arrived in Cincinnati. When our son J reached his mid-teens and college was looming, Katja decided she needed a more remunerative career, went back to school to get her MSW. degree, and took a job with a local social service agency for blind and visually impaired people. This year is the 100th anniversary of the agency and Katja’s 25th year on her job. She’s thoroughly enjoyed working with her clients, and my sense is that they’ve consistently appreciated her support and efforts on their behalf. One day an elderly female client commented, “I never knew it was so much fun to be blind.” That sums it up well.

Katja with her first boss, Jane C.

Katja’s never been enthusiastic about retiring. Some surgery-related medical problems in recent years, plus the fatigue connected with driving fifty to a hundred miles per day visiting clients, made it seem like the time was ripe. One of our friends, Bob C., counseled us years ago to not retire at the same time. It was good advice. We planned for me to retire first, with Katja to follow after a year. Now it’s two and a half years later.

Tasty Retirement Cake

Our son J, daughter-in-law K, and grandkids V and L flew up from New Orleans to help celebrate Katja’s retirement over Memorial Day Weekend. Then on Tuesday her agency had a retirement luncheon for the entire staff, some fifty people. Katja’s original boss, Jane C., who retired 12 years ago, was a surprise guest, much to everyone’s delight. Katja’s social service department head, Kathy R., gave a warm and humorous tribute, first noting all the things they would miss with Katja’s departure (e.g., Wednesday morning pastries from Graeter’s) and her likely retirement pursuits (e.g., gift-wrapping at Macy’s). Katja talked about how much her job has meant to her and how much she has valued her colleagues. Sitting beside her at the head table, I felt choked up and struggled not to cry. CEO John M. talked about what a “grand woman” Katja is, and everybody gave her a lot of hugs.

Social Service manager Kathy R. gives a tribute to Katja

On Friday night John sponsored a retirement dinner for the social service department at the Celestial in Mount Adams, one of Cincinnati’s best restaurants. We started with drinks at the Rookwood Pottery, then enjoyed an excellent dinner with a skyline view from the hilltop. After a couple of bottles of wine, the group became full of fun, silliness, and good feelings. Katja seemed very touched by it all.

John, Donna, and Katja at the Rookwood Pottery

Retirement is a huge, confusing life transition. I’m still trying to figure it all out, and I’m sure Katja will be too. It can involve, at least initially, big losses. Katja has enjoyed her work because it has included constant contact with a wide variety of interesting and often enjoyable clients, most of them eager to receive her help. Things will undoubtedly seem quiet by comparison. On the positive side, there’s a lot of freedom and opportunity to pursue one’s own interests and pleasures, unfettered by external demands. We’ll need to figure out how to approach this as a couple as well. It is bound to be an eventful year.



G-Mail Comments

-Donna D (6-6): david, this is wonderful!!!! donna

-Vicki L. (6-5): Hi D, What a grand tribute. Indeed, a new life is upon you. It is great though, that Katja was so valued and warmly appreciated for so many years and is leaving her job on such a positive note….Give Katja a big hug from me. Love, Sis

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