It’s been nearly five years since my caregiving role to my sweet papa ended and just short of a year since retiring from the best of positions at the finest of companies. It feels like identity theft two times over. Good grief, I say. Whatever am I to do now?
I’ve had more seasons to adjust to the loss of my dad and, if the circle of life is to be embraced, his passing was expected. He had nine full decades. He was abundantly loved and cared for by my sibs and me. He died as the patriarch of our family in a room full of people who loved him. You simply cannot shake your fist at God over a passing such as his. The blessing comes in the missing of a beloved parent as tender memories fill the gaps of our grief.
After retiring, I am in flux again. For 44 years, I drove to the same building and parked in the same lot. I walked in the front door at age 23 and out the back door at age 67. Many of us worked together for more than three decades. We grew up together. We worked in sync and worked as if the future and success of that then-tiny company depended solely on our efforts. We raised our kids together. We talked over one another and occasionally ate from one another’s plates if there was a french fry or two remaining after the meal.
We stood together in church pews up and down the state as one of us said goodbye to a parent. We knocked the snow off of one another’s cars in the winter. We laughed. We fussed like siblings. My employer held my heart as well as my paycheck. To have a career such as this with people you love is a blessing beyond measure. I sorely grieved the loss of dailiness with these fine people this past year.
But those career days are over. I no longer fret about the timeliness of Chicago-bound Amtrak train 58 into Illinois Terminal, a train that torpedoed more morning meetings than I can count.
My key ring is tiny now, holding just the key to my home. I drive by the building where I worked and realize I have no place there now. No voice. My opinion is no longer desired or relevant. The company is one year older and continues to enjoy marvelous success. The tiny department I managed is thriving under new leadership. This, of course, is how it should be. The succession planning was successful planning.
These feelings of regret are offset by the lifting of work pressures and deadlines. The to-go dry-cleaning bag is empty and my hamper is now full of workout attire, casual jeans and a ratty T-shirt or two.
The corporate Sleep Thief that used to barge into my bedroom in the middle of the night, stare me awake and shout at me of unfinished projects or whisper a solution to a nagging problem, no longer fractures my sleep.
Email has fizzled to a few notices from Kohl’s and AARP. I have quit scaring myself over uncertain work matters. My cell phone and I are easily apart these days. There is sweet release in these things.
A dear friend and colleague occasionally reminded our team that we have fewer tomorrows than yesterdays. In the baseball game of life, I am beyond third base and heading for home. This thought is both sobering and freeing.
It causes me to stop pointing everywhere around me for reasons of not moving on with joy as I enter this final stretch of my journey toward home. I’m not too busy, too overworked, too involved or too anything else. I have ample time, energy and emotion. If I am to finish strong and finish well, I’d best pick up the pace and stop frittering these miracles minutes that remain.
With a nod of thanksgiving to all who sacrificed for this life I was given, here’s my plan as I mosey on toward home: A season of being. Being present with my people. Smiling. Holding doors for strangers. Being alert for loneliness in others. Ridiculous laughter with my family and friends. Kindness and encouragement for all, especially the crabby ones. Instantaneous forgiveness. An unoffendable spirit. Serving. Loving. Peace and unwavering faith in what is to come. Full appreciation for the gift of a normal day. Finding the joy that each day offers.
That’s how you’ll find me, between third and home.