This morning, in my mailbox at work, was an envelope with “fancy” addressing. Curious, I opened it. Stunned, I took in that deep intake of breath you go for when you’re surprised and trying not to say anything. A woman very dear to me within our district is retiring. It was an invitation to her retirement party. I just put the invitation back in my box. It wasn’t something I wanted to think about at the time.
However, it makes me cry just writing this, which is crazy, because she has every right to retire. She’s earned it. She’s been working for our district for 39 years! Heck, most of my life. Yet, I couldn’t/can’t focus on the happy part of her discovering a new path in her life. I focused on me because I will miss her so very much.
I met Mary Ann when I started teaching at Burnett and thought I knew everything. Worse than a fresh-from-school teacher I was a fresh-from-industry with a little bit of knowledge teacher. So sure I was right and everyone else was wrong. Diane would tangle with me and put me in the right place — like a mother lion knocking a cub back into line. Mary Ann’s not like that. She’s regal, gracious, and willing to sit back while you make BIG mistakes. She’s a constructivist. It may not be comfortable to watch someone screw up, but she knew enough to know that experience counts (especially in someone staunchly dedicated to reflection).
When I picture Mary Ann, I picture a Audrey Hepburn type. She’s cute, even though with 39 years in the district, you know she’s not “young”. She’s positive. She can see the good side in a burned cheese sandwich. She’s thoughtful. She really knows how to listen. She takes in the longest rant and then reflects. I’ve never known ANYONE who’s as dedicated to making things work and setting aside ego as Mary Ann. I’m sure she has one (we all do), but I can honestly say, I’ve NEVER seen her promote her own agenda. Everything she puts her effort to is with the kids in mind.
I half-jokingly told Mary Ann she could be a CIA agent. She can keep a secret. I imagine she has many she’s taking to the grave (maybe she should write a tell-all. Nope. It’s not her style. She’s old school cool). You can tell her ANYTHING and it doesn’t go further. Like I said, she may have her own agenda, but I’ve never seen it. Perhaps that’s part of her evil plot to dominate the world, but I doubt it. She just doesn’t have that kind of ego.
Whenever I’m not sure about how to proceed, Mary Ann always provides the best ear. She will give examples that are relevant. She allows for negative talk. Then she gently pushes for a goal/path. She actually is pretty demanding that way (in her soft manner). She won’t allow for nothing. When I wasn’t sure about a placement, she told me that it was probably time to move on regardless of what was next. She pointed out that it’s only through challenge that we grow. To her the challenge itself wasn’t the issue, it was the growth.
I am going to miss Mary Ann so very much. She has been a delightful spark in a sea of change. She has been a fabulous mentor, a good friend, and an excellent example of loyalty, discretion, and honor. She is from a by-gone era. She is, and probably always has been, a lady.
Of course I will attend her retirement party. I can’t imagine not saying no to someone so significant in my career and my life. I imagine that I won’t be the only one crying. However, I understand when it’s time to move on and face life’s next challenge. I was taught well.
To Mary Ann,
Good luck my dear friend with your next chapter in life. Your guiding force has meant so very much to me. I was lucky to have met and worked with you. I’ve never said it, but I hope you knew, I love you very much.