(with apologies to Dan Brown, author of “The DaVinci Code”)
When I retired suddenly and unexpectedly from work after a long career, I was sent a parting gift a few weeks later. It wasn’t a gold watch, or a pin. Instead it was a rather heavy, ornately carved, velvet-lined redwood box with inlaid filigree around the lid. It was in truth, a beautiful thing. And in the center of the lid was a raised ornate frame with a photo of the facility I worked at mounted under glass. And that photo was the only clue as to what the box should contain. And since ‘retirement’ is right up there with the other milestones of life – birth, graduation, marriage, and death, I could only surmise that this miniature casket should contain a keystone of articles related to the turning point and distance of my career.
So what should I put in it? My application letter and a copy of the working covenant I signed my name to so many years ago? My stapler, my pen, that bloody alarm clock that whined and wailed all those years and roused me from sweet slumber? None of that seemed worthy of such a fine treasure house. Or should I put a copy of my unorthodox resignation letter? Written with such unexpected suddenness that I was as surprised at what I wrote as the recipients of that letter.
The letter I sent to the President (with a cc to my Supervisor), after spending a morning at the office covertly stashing all my personal stuff in a box hidden under my desk, read as follows:
“This e-mail is just to let you know that at lunch time I am leaving and I won’t be back. I am sick to death of the acts of political corruption, rather than a mandate to clients, that rule this establishment. I will no longer be a part of it. I know the rules but I don’t care about the consequences of leaving without notice. I don’t know how I’ll feel once I walk out those doors. But I am fairly certain I will feel a whole lot better than I am feeling right now.”
Or maybe I should stash the response that came directly from the President.
“Roberta, this is so not like you. I am well aware how valuable and reliable worker you are. Why don’t you take a couple days at home to think about this? Contact Human Resources and then go and see your doctor. You may just need to take some stress leave. I know arrangements can be made for you to take as long as you need.”
My response, sent from my at-home computer, “If I am sick in the head, I am too sick to recognize my sickness. You have enough abusers of sick days, stress leaves, and long-term disability that you don’t need any more. I will not even consider stress leave. I am done. If you require a formal letter of resignation, this is it. Print off this exchange and put it in the file.”
I guess I sure had a pickle up my a-- that day. It’s that pickle I should put in the box, but I guess it got flushed. Oh well. Probably the best thing to put in the box is an ecclesiastical manifest of the dramatic disclosure of facts, not known or realized, until the day I walked out. And so this is my manifest.
This is Book of REVELATION of Roberta Smith, to show all things sent and signified by her retirement.
Chapter I, Verse 1.
“And the vision that came to me were the things I had forgotten. I forgot I would not be alone if I quit work. I forgot I had a Hub with a sense of humor that delighted in my presence. I forgot that the world doesn’t have to spin like an out-of-control merry-go-round every hour of every day. I forgot that I have creative hands and a severely damaged imagination that perhaps can be resurrected. I forgot there are other challenges in life to give me worthy purpose, sensibility, and accomplishment. I forgot that contentment comes from liking the person I am. And most of all I forgot that life is for living.”
That is what I will put in the box. It’s no Ark of the Covenant, but for me…it’s my Holy Grail.