A Good Day To Retire…
In the early 1980’s the coal industry of West Virginia was anything but stable. Following a major setback for the company that my Dad and uncle worked for, everyone realized that the handwriting was on the wall: it was time to get out. The ensuing job search resulted in my family leaving Beckley, WV so that Dad could take a job with a company that manufactures exterior wood siding at a plant about 20 minutes outside of North Wilkesboro, NC. It was December of 1985. I was 2 and my brother was 6.
Twenty-eight years later, a lot has changed. My brother and I are both grown and married, he has two sons and my wife and I are expecting our first child in the Spring. There have been 5 different Presidents since 1985, clothing styles have come and gone…and then come back…and then gone again, gas has quadrupled in price, and the world has gone technology-crazy. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is my Dad’s place of employment. Sure, his job title has changed a few times over the years, co-workers have come and gone, and the ownership of the company has shifted on several occasions. But for 28 years Dad has driven the same roads to the same plant in the same small town surrounded by corn fields, chicken farms, and rolling foothills. Until today.
Today, November 8th, 2013, almost 28 years to the day that he started, is Dad’s last full day before he retires. Somewhere around 5pm eastern time he will drive away from the plant as a 62-year-old retiree in much the same way he did as a 34-year-old looking for a new start for his family. What used to be the future will now be the past. What used to be the day-to-day will now be yesterday. Starting today, tomorrow means something brand new.
So on this day I would like to simply tell Dad, “Thank You.” Thank you because I know that the last 28 years, not to even mention the last 28 weeks, have been full of ups and downs. Those years have had some stretches where you enjoyed going to work, and they’ve had some stretches where it took everything in you to go….but you went anyway. And in that going you taught your two sons about loyalty, perseverance, and what it means to sometimes just put your head down in order to keep moving forward.
What I also know about the last 28 years is that the loyalty and perseverance you showed at work weren’t so much about advancing in your career as much as they were about providing for your family. Your loyalty and perseverance got us through times when Mom’s job was in transition, it put basketball shoes on our feet, it filled the family van with gas on our Summer vacations, it helped pay for us to attend the Summer conferences that shaped us, it provided dental insurance when I took an elbow to the mouth during intramural basketball in college, and it has enabled you and Mom to travel to New Orleans and Seattle to visit our growing families. What I didn’t fully realize as a kid, I don’t take lightly now: that almost all of the activities and experiences in our childhoods that helped make us who we are today happened because of the job that you’ve been going to for 28 years.
As you pull away from the plant today I hope you catch a glimpse in the rearview mirror of days catching bluegill and bass in the company pond with your two sons, the spot where the J-car met both its’ timely and untimely end, and the parking spot where two people who may be related to you “decorated” your car on your 50th birthday. But more than that, I hope you see the family you raised and the community that we became a part of because you were willing to follow God leading us away from family in West Virginia to settle in a state where we didn’t know anybody.
Then, I hope you look forward, to the road that is leading you into the next stage of life–a stage where you will have time to pursue new hobbies and interests, much like you’ve always encouraged us to do. And while the timing of your retirement is a few years earlier than expected for reasons outside of your control, that’s perfectly fine. God’s timing isn’t always comfortable, but it’s still God’s timing.
Finally, after the plant has long faded from the back window, I hope you meet Mom somewhere for dinner to celebrate. The celebration could justifiably happen because the job is finished and the stress of it is done. But, the celebration should also be in part because the job happened in the first place, and as a result of it happening, you are who you are, and we are who we are.
For that, for you, and for your hard work over these last 28 years, I am thankful.