Sunday, April 24, 2005

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School Days

Next week is the last one of the semester and the end of my penultimate year of teaching. Right now, I am on what my university euphemistically calls, “voluntary phased retirement.” That is to say, I have “voluntarily” chosen to ease myself out of what has been my professional life for over forty years. But my decision was not exactly voluntary.

My enthusiasm waned, my interest flagged, and the voice of creeping old age became louder. I was becoming weary with teaching and all its attendant ills. Classes became far too large; reports and meetings, far too numerous; and rewards, much too few. What I do now is greatly different from what I did when I started.

With a stanza from one of Dorothy Parker’s poems, “The Little Old Lady in Lavender Silk,” in mind, this is what I propose to do for the next several months:

When it comes to this time of abatement,
To this passing from summer to fall,
It is manners to issue a statement
As to what you got out of it all.

I hope that I can do this with at least some of the art, humor, and irony of Dorothy Parker, without perhaps the bitterness that lies just below the surface of her light verse.