Less than a week ago I used this blog to announce my intention to retire.
Four days later I was laid off.
My position was eliminated during a “strategic realignment” of the organization. I was not alone. Three other colleagues received the same message as me. And there had been earlier realignments in the organization. It was a matter of time before they got to our department. I guess I’ll never know if I was chosen because I had announced my retirement or because my number came up. Either way, c’est la vie. (That’s a French way of saying “it is what it is.”)
The next day, as fate would have it, was my birthday — my 65th birthday. When I was a child that was the expected retirement age, 65. But things have changed along the way. My full Social Security payment will not kick in until I’m 66 but I had made up my mind I wouldn’t wait another year. I made application for Social Security on-line and in a few days received a call from a nice agent who informed me that I qualified to receive my late husband’s benefits — which are substantially higher — even though we were common law for many years. I’ve sent her the proof that Bob and I presented ourselves as husband and wife. She made it sound all very simple. Let’s hope.
On my birthday I awoke and immediately thought of the day before when I had been laid off. As I lay there thinking of the week’s events I couldn’t help but think of my good fortune. Certainly not everyone who has been laid off has that thought. But throughout the week I had been thinking how I would like to be retired by the end of October. Answered prayers! Not the way I would have crafted it but it is, nevertheless, an answered prayer.
I rolled out of bed thinking “Well, Alice, it is the first day of the rest of your life.” I smiled broadly and headed off to Alafia River State Park where I photographed mushrooms with the help of my sister. Here’s a sampling of the day’s work.
This little guy was no more than 1/2 inch in height. He was beginning his new life … and so was I. ❧
Just a quick post to tell everyone that Alice will soon join the ranks of the notorious 47% when she begins collecting Social Security retirement next month. I’ve given notice at Tidewell Hospice that I would like to be out of there no later than Dec. 28. If it can be arranged I hope it will be sooner. I’ve worked at Tidewell for seven years and have seen, first hand, that life is shorter than we can imagine. There are too many projects that I have delayed because of my job. The good Lord willing I will have time to finish those projects and find a few more. In the words of songster Donavon Frankenreiter, “I’m looking for life, love, and laughter/Everything in between/And what happens after.”
Last week was something special for me. In Lansing, Michigan they dedicated the R.C. Randall Memorial Wellness Center, named in honor of my late husband. It was a joyous event and both the ribbon-cutting and dinner were well attended. I traveled to Lansing and was the keynote speaker at the dinner. For weeks before I wondered what I had gotten myself into and now I have the answer — something good.
The R.C. Randall Memorial Wellness Center helps patients with a medical need for marijuana to be certified by the State of Michigan. This certification allows the patient two options: 1) grow their own marijuana (up to 12 plants), or 2) be paired with a “Caregiver” who will provide the patient with marijuana which he or she grows specifically for patients. Michigan, along with numerous other States, has been forced to craft a solution to the medical marijuana problem because the federal government steadfastly refuses to “man up” and re-schedule marijuana. Under federal law marijuana is still classified as having “no accepted medical use in treatment” despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Robert C. Randall died in 2001. He was still receiving marijuana from the federal government and still had his eyesight. And he still had the desire to see others obtain marijuana for medical use. In his final days he tried to dictate an article about marijuana’s beneficial effects for people with AIDS, especially in Africa where he envisioned AIDS clinics easily growing marijuana in their backyards. “How easy it could be,” he said.
But nothing was ever easy with medical marijuana and two decades of being on the “front line” had taken its toll on me. With Robert’s death I felt the time had come to “bow out” of the movement. Like any woman grieving the loss of her husband, I went through a period of uncertainty. The only certain thing I knew was that the road Robert and I traveled together had stopped. I knew I had to find my own path.
I had an interest in hospice work and began to chart my course towards working with the local organization, a goal I achieved four years after Robert’s death. It has been rewarding work. From time to time I have received calls about medical marijuana, asking for comments or seeking advice. I did what I could but I became more and more removed from the movement and that was fine by me. The medical marijuana movement had become huge and often chaotic. By failing to confront the medical marijuana issue honestly the federal government had created a nightmare of state laws, dispensaries, and uncontrolled use. Pandora’s box was open and, from my perspective, there seemed no rational way to proceed.
I promised myself that I would always speak out to preserve Robert’s memory and remind others of his legacy. This has served me well. About two years ago an activist called from Washington, D.C. and asked my permission to use Robert’s name on a clinic that they expected to open. I said it was “possible” and asked to be kept in the loop. I never heard from him again.
In the Spring of 2012 I had another request to use Robert’s name, this time from Michigan, and the requestor was a young woman, Becca Hollandsworth, who had been befriended by an ally from the “early days.” Roger Winthrop is the quintessential activist, a man who has devoted his life to various causes, one of which has been med-pot. He and Robert were great co-conspirators. They would talk for hours on the phone (before the age of “unlimited minutes”) and write long letters filled with tactics and strategies. I trusted Roger and he trusted Becca. Permission was granted.
Throughout the summer I would hear from Roger or Becca with updates. A “gala opening” was being planned and would I come? I agreed. I was never quite sure that either Roger or Becca heard my protests that I “was no longer involved in the movement.” I told them I would come to Lansing to help preserve the memory of Robert and his legacy. “Will you be available to lobby in the Capitol?” Hmmm, sounds suspiciously like “involvement.” But I pressed on.
Before I knew it the event had taken on a life of its own. On the RCR Memorial Wellness Center Facebook page the following was posted:
“GRASS ROOTS REUNION events in Lansing MI … once-in-lifetime opportunity to meet & speak with pioneers of medpot ‘movement’ …. they’ve not been together in decades, unlikely to ever do it again. Lansing’s Eastside is most unlikely place for such event ~ not envisioned, just came together w/ support of handful of Michiganders who recognize values & wish to ‘connect’ w/ authentic Tradition in name & honor of Bob & Alice. We are so fortunate to have earned this opportunity.”
So, on September 12 we “pioneers” got together and dedicated The Center which is, quite frankly, very handsome and much more than I ever expected. Robert would be very proud.
But he would be even more proud at the reception I received from Becca, Mark, Aaron, Jaisen, and others. In my role as a grief counselor at hospice I do a lot of “validation” — confirming that what the client says is right and true. In Lansing I was the one to receive validation. It was a sweet and singular time. Looking back at two decades of work and receiving the respect of those who are carrying on — I’m not sure it gets much better.
That night there was a dinner and I gave the keynote address. About 150 people were in attendance including several representatives from the nearby legislature. In between various technical snafus I managed to speak from the heart about the beginnings of the “movement” and how those years had been. Forced to “wing it” I’m not sure I ever got out the words that are most important to me. “Thank you, RC Randall Memorial Wellness Center.” You made this woman very proud. And Godspeed in your mission. One day, we hope, sanity will prevail but until that time remember that legal or illegal marijuana works. It can save sight, quell nausea, soothe spasms, control seizures, and a host of other disorders. It is a substance that was placed on this earth for a reason, a substance for which our DNA has a “receptor”. It will not be denied, only delayed. Keep on keepin’ on!
Sundays are becoming one of my favorite days of the week. First I don’t have to be at work and secondly, that seems to be the day Amazon.com sends out its book orders. For the past three Sundays I have opened my email to find an Amazon.com Advantage order waiting. I’m hardly keeping pace with the best-selling Fifty Shades of Gray but from what I’ve heard about that book I can tell you that I move in different circles.
Selling a book isn’t easy and having my new book on Amazon.com seems like a huge accomplishment but I can see I’ll have to do more if I want to continue seeing those Sunday morning emails. Retail-wise the stores are holding tight at the moment. I’d hoped to place my book at the Myakka Park Outpost gift shop but their ordering is on hold until October. This makes perfect sense. Traffic in the Park is decidedly down from seasonal crowds. So, I’ll bide my time and hope to “gin up” the Amazon purchases where I can.