“Life is what happens to you…”

To quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I had a plan for tonight’s post, and I know it was important to me, but that was before I got an important e-mail this afternoon. Once I read that e-mail, all of my plans flew out the window. I know that what I’m about to say will seem silly to most of you, but it was the most important bit of news to reach me this year. One of my college instructors is retiring next month.

I know, I know…it’s just part of life. It’s what happens. People retire all of the time. I know this. My head knows this and knows that my reaction today has been…I guess…weird would be the best word. My heart, though. My heart says I haven’t been reacting strongly enough. The funny part is another of my college instructors retired a few years ago and it didn’t bother me a bit.

“Well, Princess,” you ask, “what’s the big deal?” Well, my friends, the big deal is the relationship and the reminder of mortality. The relationship has never been inappropriate and has always been teacher/student, but there was also a friendship and mentorship there too. Plus, he has been one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had, making him my second favorite music teacher. And no, he’s not dying, just done teaching. He’s actually looking forward to being able to perform again now that the pandemic is calming down here. But the mortality hits me because I don’t feel like I’ve known him since 2008. I don’t feel like I’m nearing 40. And he has never acted old enough to be close to retirement either.

No. Today’s announcement wasn’t unanticipated…not entirely. He has mentioned retirement before, but always in the future. I didn’t realize that the time had come.

This is where being a little becomes disconcerting…at least for me. I don’t feel like I’m nearing 40. I don’t feel like I’m old enough to have 17 and 15 year old kids (I haven’t forgotten the 9 year old, but he’s not really part of the aging equation). I see myself as a parent, and I acknowledge my kids’ ages and the changes that have come with them. But I still feel, emotionally at least, like a little kid. Physically, I acknowledge that I have a bad shoulder and knee, but beyond my inability to play the trombone for hours each and every day and my inability to jump, run, or be on my feet all day, I feel the same as I did at 21 or 22. So, I feel like I haven’t aged a bit since I’ve known this teacher and therefore he shouldn’t be able to retire. Get it?

Mortality hits me at odd times. Shortly after I earned my Associate’s Degree and had transferred from community college to a university, one of my classmates died. He was about 6 years younger than I was. A couple years later, my favorite music teacher retired. A year or so later, my main professor at the university died unexpectedly…and he was only about 6 years older than me. Less than 2 years ago my mother had lung cancer removed, and had a stroke post-op…in front of me.

I want to be sentimental. I want to be sappy and tell you all that even though we didn’t know it at the time, my son wound up named after my two favorite music teachers…he did, but that’s apparently a story for another time. I want to reminisce and tell you stories about experiences he and I have shared. I want to be able to tell you about the life lessons I learned from him. And I want to brag about how I was, and still am, his favorite student/former student and tell you how I know. And I will eventually. Just like I will eventually remember what I had originally planned to write and hope to be able to still write about whatever it was. But tonight…tonight I need to remember that I’m not invincible. Tonight I need to remember mortality.

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