Today is the first day of summer vacation. Actually, it started yesterday at noon but I was packing my room and I didn’t leave until 1:30. I could have stayed and worked longer, but I had a chiropractor appointment and I needed to be straightened out. I’ll be heading back to school and the room this morning to move my teaching stuff down the hall to my new rooms. W is going with me to help move boxes. I had forgotten how much stuff I had.
There is always a last day and after the last day there is a first day of something else, something new, a new beginning. One of the teachers in our building retired and as I was leaving yesterday, I saw her family helping her pack her car with her things. She was teary-eyed at our end of the year staff lunch and she’ll be missed, she’ll miss us, too but she’ll move on to a new beginning and someday, I’ll be there.
Four years ago, I was flying to Memphis listening to Neil Young. Julie had called the night before with the news that my dad had fallen and was in the hospital and unconscious. It was serious. I was sort of in the same predicament I am today, I needed to pack boxes and move to a new room but I needed to be with my dad and Julie. I quickly made travel plans – fly to Memphis, rent a car, and drive to Oxford, Mississippi. I packed and before I went to bed, I looked up Neil Young on iTunes I had heard about the release of a boxed set and wanted to check it out. It was $79.99 and out of my league. The tracks sounded great, but I couldn’t afford eighty bucks and settled instead for Neil Young’s Greatest Hits for $11.99, it had sixteen tracks and was enough it was what I needed. I listened to it almost exclusively the entire weekend when I could – on the flight down and back. I kept coming back to the song, track ten “Old Man.” The first four lines resonated with me and I kept listening to the song over and over.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Until that day, I always thought we were almost alike. But, time has a way of sharpening the focus on things and shaping how one looks at things. I know there are similarities but we were different, very different. He was seventy-six and had retired, eleven years before in 1998. He couldn’t wait to be retired. But, he didn’t have a plan.
I was able to see my dad several times before I had to leave. He regained consciousness, briefly, in one of the visits and we connected, for one last time. He never regained consciousness and passed away six weeks later. A year later, my brothers and I took his cremains home to France. Every time I hear Neil Young and “Old Man,” I close my eyes and remember sitting in the back of the plane flying home to Chicago late Sunday night. The flight had been delayed and the early evening flight had changed to a late night flight. It was dark outside, the lights were dimmed in the cabin and I listened to “Old Man” over and over.
I am a lot like him, but we were different, very different. Oddly, Neil Young did not write the song about his dad, his old man, but about the caretaker of the ranch that he purchased at the age of twenty-four. The next four lines explain:
Old man look at my life,
and there’s so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.
My dad shared with me his passions and taught me a lot. I will always remember the things we shared and the time we spent together, how he shaped me, and how the time since his passing has further shaped me and sharpened my focus.
Today is the first day of summer vacation, seventy-four days of endless possibilities, seventy-four days to make the days count. Today is gonna be a great day, I know it, but I just need to get a movin’ and make it happen. But first, I have packing and moving to do. I have a plan. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, even on the first day.
Is there a song that sticks with you? What is it and why?
7 thoughts on “First Day”
When you say your Dad didn’t have a plan, I wondered what happened. Was he sad when he retired? At loose ends?
You’re right about planning ahead. It’s easy to think of ourselves in terms of what we do, our jobs, rather than what we are, mammals, and what we need — love, companionship, challenges — a million things more than a job. When the job goes, a lot of people fall apart. You’re lucky to work as a teacher. Every summer you get to practice retiring, so when the time comes, you’ll have a leg up.
You are right about summer vacation, I’d never looked at it that way before. Thank you. MakingtheDaysCount.org got it’s start in 2010 from a kernel of that idea – what to do with my summers and retirement. My son W was born in Jan ’98 and dad was so excited, much more than I expected. We had visited him in Paris in late May ’97 (you can do the math :)) and he showed a spark. As the retirement day approached he talked about how he couldn’t wait, how he’d do this and that. For a year, maybe two he kept at it, then it faded. He had a house in Houston (where my brothers and their families live)and retired there, but then he moved to Mississippi a few years later and it sort of fell apart. I worry that I’ll follow in his footsteps and every summer I try to re-invent a part of me so I can keep it going long after I stop teaching kids, because I don’t feel like I am old, ’cause I am not, at least in my mind. When I start to act my age, I’ll worry. Until then, I’ll keep working to make my days count in every possible way. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day and make your day count!
Let me try this again. It’s ironic that I should read your blog on what would be my dad’s birthday. He would be 78. I don’t have a particular song but a singer, Merle Haggard, because if I hear him sing I automatically think of my dad because he was a favorite of his. I know what you mean by some people seeming “old” while others in their 70’s and 80’s are still full of life. I certainly see this at work. I remember my dad saying one time, ” I don’t feel like I’m this old”. At the time, I didn’t really understand but I do now. As I’m nearing 50 I just don’t feel that age in my head anyway. Ha.
It wasn’t until that flight down that “Old Man” became connected to dad. When I was 25 I moved to California and lived there for 3 years. At the time I thought it was the move that would make my dad’s life and mine similar – he traveled and moved often, like a tumbleweed. It wasn’t to be though, I moved back to Texas in 1990 and then then to Illinois in ’91. I’ve been at the same address and phone number for over 20 plus years. The line ’24 and there’s so much more, live alone in a paradise’ rings true, at twenty-four\twenty-five, I thought I was a ‘master of the universe,’ when in reality I was just beginning. At age 51, I don’t feel old. My students are always amazed when I tell them my age and I tell them that when I start to act my age, I’ll worry. Until then, Hakuna Matata!
Sounds like you had a great dad and miss him. I am seeing mine in Florida next week. Enjoy the summer break and do some good stuff during it. The time goes by quick!
Thanks – I am slowly gaining peace over my dad’s passing. Our relationship had its moments and I have a few regrets – I should have taken the high road a few more times than I did, the high road is ALWAYS less crowded and a much better place to be. I do miss him and I remember many of the times we shared and his legacy. Enjoy your time with your dad and your week in Florida – W, my son, will be down in the Sunshine state, too. He’s scuba diving with the Boy Scouts at Sea Base all next week, I know he’s gonna have fun. You should, too.