Thursday, February 28, 2008

It is Official

April 29, 2008 is my first official day of retirement. I went down town yesterday and signed the paperwork for my pension. The way I got it figured, 14 more double shift work days and I am finished.

Since Tony's death life around the prison has gotten back to normal. After all we are big tough prison guards who have no feelings. We don't internalize our losses to add to the stress level. The state has started a program called, "Critical Incident Stress Management." ( CISM) Off site, groups of affected people are brought together to talk about what happened and how they feel. Being a dinosaur I was a skeptic, after 28 years of spoon fed bullshit you get that way. The sessions really do help, just knowing that others feel the same way you do. The folks that run it are from the outside and are very good at what they do. Unfortunately this is the fourth one I have been to in the last three years.

For a time in my career I felt like the Grim Reaper. We had in a two year period three suicides by officers. All three called the prison to say they were not coming to work, I took all three calls. Only one let on that anything was bothering him and I questioned him. Wanted to know if I could help. He told me he was gonna take a few days off to get it together after his ex-wife took his son and left town. That night he took his one day old new car and drove it thru a brick wall. That did not kill him so he walked home, put a rope around his neck, tied it to a ceiling light, that broke so he tried a rod in the closet, that broke, he finally hung himself from a railing. I was not alright with this for a long time. My spider senses were on full alert, his new girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child worked at the prison. I sent her home to spend time with him after he called and then would not answer his cell phone. I beat myself up over this for quite some time, even though everyone said I went beyond the norm to help. Never did I expect him to kill himself that night. CISM helped.

Damn I went back and read what I just wrote. Sounds like a bad Cagney movie. Believe it or not I loved my job, just not all that much lately. When you work with people for decades it becomes like a huge family with all the same problems and joys. For some reason people find it easy to tell me their problems and seek my council. This gets to be a big load to carry. Some things have to be held or unemployment will add to whatever else is is troubling them. Our department eats their young. Thousands of dollars are spent recruiting, training, and clothing the officers, then the next twenty-five years are spent trying to fire them.

I am moving forward and this is my final rant. It did not start out to be a rant. After reading this do not think that there was always a black cloud hanging overhead. I have had a lot of fun and joyful times at this job. Made too many good friends to count and do my best to only own what is truly mine and let the rest go.

Next post.........
My plans for my first summer retired!


Kati said...

Dang.... Slip... If you needed to rant, you needed to rant. That's all there is to it some times. I think that movies are a pale imitation of real life, whether that's a good thing or not. The reality is, movies are only trying to capture reality in a format that allows us to watch without having to live. And yet, at the same time, we ARE living lives that are so much fuller, richer, and F-d up than movies could ever be. I've never felt the urge to watch soap operas because with all the crap I see in just my extended family, I don't need the fictional crap of other people's families as well. *grin*

Seriously, though, I hope you're able to look forward to your retirement & make plans and keep sane in your last weeks of employement. I hope that the work you plan for your retirement brings you the peace that you need after years in such a emotion-fraught workplace.

Ol' Lady said...

Sometimes getting together with others who have had the same or similar experences is a good thing cause you know that your not alone with what your feeling and that your possibly still human.
Every kind of job has stress but there are some jobs where the stress is extreamly high and sad to say it can and does take its toll on people. I know that after 32 yrs in the military the stress has changed my husband. When he retired 7 yrs ago it was like night and day with him. I'm sure that on April 29 you will have a large weight removed from you. Do what you want, when you have earned it.
Lookin forward to retirement stories :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I didn't know you were a prison guard, Slip. That has to be one of the most difficult jobs on earth.

It sounds as if you did everything you could to help that man, who should have realized when his attempts to kill himself failed that he was meant to live.

It's very sad that he didn't confide in someone who could have helped him, and it's also sad for his son and the unborn child he abandoned.

Now I can't wait for you to retire either! I look forward to reading about you working your farms and doing whatever you please every day. You have more than earned it.

Gina said...

co-worker suicide is very rough. I had a similar incident a little over a year ago. One of the temporary workers (and one I was close to) was called by my co-worker to say his job was held until spring. He said very uncaracteristic things and I called him back because the suicide comment (followed by 'just kidding') concerned me. I ended up being the last person to talk to him before he shot himself in the head. I have kicked myself also and I couldn't get his voice out of my head for a long time.

When I was an officer in Tucson, I took the spot of one suicide and another occurred shortly after I left AZ. I was close to that person too.

Retirement will be such a relief. A chance to look back at all the positives you have done and a chance to follow your dreams freely (as opposed to the jail schedule).

And April is almost here!!!

PS your last comments over at la blog had me rolling! Thanks for the laugh!

RED MOJO said...

It won't be long now! It'll be great to have time to putter. I hope you do. If you are running a farm, you might not have time to build stuff, and goof off, but I hope you do.
Did you get the email I sent you with the link, and the pics of my workshop?

Casdok said...

Hope your plans are going well!! :)

Merelyme said...

you are such a fascinating fellow. wow...a prison guard. that is one job i just cannot imagine what it must have been like. i am sure you could write one amazing book all about your experiences and i would definitely want to read it. good luck with your retirement. what does it feel like for you?

please keep writing...i am wanting to hear more of your stories.

Odat said...

Hey Congrats on your retirement too!
Isn't it a great feeling? Of course I'm going to miss the people, but not working for sure!!! Wow..what a job you's good that you had some help with all that trauma...We think we're ok with it...but we're not, really. I've been thru tragedy
too (9/11 and I just recently lost my husband)...and have alway sought counseling of some sort.