I was rummaging through a box yesterday, looking for a notebook I bought late last year. Luckily, I was able to track it down.
The notes I needed were in the middle of the book, but something caused me to turn to the very first page. It was there I saw my one and only New Year’s resolution from last year.
I established that objective before the year 2020 became what it was, has been, and currently is. America wasn’t completely tearing itself apart (though the seeds had definitely been sown), the economy wasn’t in turmoil, and nobody knew what the hell COVID-19 was. It seemed only sensible to have a nice list of goals.
I knew my career was coming to an end. I chose May 9 as the day I would celebrate my final “roll call” as a police officer. And by the end of the summer, I determined, I would find myself ensconced in a condominium in Chicago, Illinois. From there, I would begin a life in music journalism and things connected to it. I dug in looking for ways to make these things happen.
But the world kept throwing me curveballs. Luckily, I was able to get my bat on more than one.
Things started in the absolute right direction when the estate of Parliament/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell commissioned me to write his official biography. Plans for my next two books (already spinning about in my head) were quickly put on hold as I started down this new direction. I had my first “post-retirement” project, and a good answer for anyone asking, “So what are you gonna do now?”
I hired a real estate agent in Chicago, and we started talking about what I wanted, and where I wanted it located. I was bouncing back and forth between there and home, going to gigs or getting out of town just for the hell of it.
Everyone on the job knew I was winding down and slowing making my way to the exit. I trained a few rookies — which helped keep me engaged — and pretty much milked the clock, since I wasn’t out to impress anybody anymore.
And then we all learned about — and were affected by — the Coronavirus. And just like that, everything was tipped on its collective head.
The more I learned about The Bug, the less of a good idea it seemed for me to keep going to work. The original plan was to take my last vacation, then announce my retirement by submitting the paperwork. I was on that path as late as early April. By mid-April, however, I had to take a step back and re-evaluate. My health and the afflictions I live with from day to day led me to believe it would be better for me to step away sooner than I planned, and start burning some of the many sick days I had available.
This is where a quarter century of service started to pay off. Businesses were being shuttered, and people were being put out of work. It was and remains absolutely horrible. But I was able to make a phone call and declare I wasn’t coming to work. Nobody batted an eye, and I got paid for every single day. I’ll never take for granted just how fortunate I was. Not only could I stay home without worry, I was able to start work on the new book. There wasn’t much I could do outside my door, but I was plenty busy inside.
Then the travel restrictions came. I found myself unable to make the road trips I needed to look at potential new homes. Scott (my real estate guru) and I began taking virtual tours of assorted homes. But it was hard to get excited about anything I couldn’t stand in. I’m one of those people who needs to get a physical feel for things. Slowly but surely, things started to loosen up a bit, and I was able to make a couple of road trips. But not much came of it for awhile.
At first, I wasn’t even concerned with going through with the final roll call ceremony. I would be perfectly happy just calling it a day by shaking a few hands and walking out the door. But a couple of my co-workers all but demanded I go through with the ceremony. They wanted a chance to say a proper goodbye.
The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. But The Bug nipped that moment right in the bud. No large gatherings. Social distancing. No groups of more than six. Asking people to gather on my behalf was simply out of the question. I could never in good conscience ask my friends and peers to do such a thing. So, what I thought I would do in the first place actually happened. Except this time, it didn’t feel quite as good.
That being said, I was able to retire. The world was going to hell around me (George Floyd in Minneapolis happened as I burned sick time), but I was fortunate enough to be able to say, “No thank you, I’m calling it a day.” I was able to move about enough to turn in my gear, get my last paycheck, and arrange for my pension. It was weird, but it was good to be finished.
In late summer, I found the condo I was looking for. And since 25 years worth of accumulated benefits were now on the table, I could even find a way to pay for it. This isn’t to say there weren’t a few bumps in the road, and more than a couple of hoops to jump through. But the job was done, and now I live in Chicago. I thank my lucky stars every day for such a break.
But there was also tragedy to endure. One of the young officers I trained was shot and killed. He was like a son to me (as were all the other youngsters I trained, whom I called “my kids”), and now I had to go to his funeral. I was given the honor of delivering one of the eulogies, which proved therapeutic, particularly since I was in Chicago when the incident occurred. I was unable to get back and say a proper goodbye before he passed away. Speaking at the funeral helped me to let go.
So in spite of a pandemic, social strife, shuttering businesses, teenager drama (I’m not discussing that), and all the landmines that go with them, my life has peacefully and steadily moved forward. I was able to get what I needed where I needed it, hire the people to help me get things done, and complete the transition. Well … mostly complete the transition. I found my car leaking antifreeze a couple of days before the move. It remains in St. Louis for repairs. I hope to be reunited with it early next week.
The year 2020 has been, in the grand scheme of things, pretty awful on a macro level. But within my own space, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could’ve been.
I say it over and over: I’m a lucky guy, and I know it. That’s why I try to help people close to me when they need a little help. It’s why I do all I can to support small businesses, like family-owned restaurants, record shops, and other retail stores. It’s why I try to tip big when it applies. Not everyone has shared my good fortune this year, and I have no intention of rubbing that in their faces. After all, it could have just as easily been me.
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell
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