True story: What retirement really means

As I walked into my dad’s retirement party this week, I saw him in a full suit (very typical), talking to a few other execs at the bank, and I couldn’t help but swell with pride. Biased, maybe, but I think the world of my dad. One reason for this was highlighted by all his coworkers at the party.

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My dad is one of the hardest working people I know. He’s thorough, dedicated, intelligent, and above all he’s honest. What an honor to God he must be. Whenever I’m stuck at work a little late, my grumbling is cut short whenever I think of my dad, and the work he puts in. No matter how many hours I’ve put in, I’m sure he’s worked double that on average. What an example! Those who always see him in suits and shiny shoes, sitting in his plush office, might not know where this strong work ethic comes from. He’s just an anomaly, they assume. A rare gem. Well, that highly intelligent guy at the bank came from a very simple small town home where hard work ruled. He loved running with his mutt dogs through open fields, playing baseball in an empty lot, and serving his quiet mother. No wonder he’s such a valued worker!

I’ll remember this example my whole life, I’m sure.

But I’ll remember something else more. He never worked too hard to hang out with his daughter. Here’s what I remember most:

-Jumping in leaf piles he raked

-Being taught (with patience) everything he was doing

-Curling up on his lap for stories of Lennie the Leprechaun

-Unraveling treasure hunts

-Singing the following: Mairs-e-dotes, Whatcha gonna do with the drunken sailor, You are My Sunshine,

-Being included in absolutely everything, from walks to the store to painting a swing set and scraping wallpaper

-Memorizing Scripture in chunks

-Hearing him play the piano or guitar as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling

-Long walks and bike rides, where whole novel plots are outlined and kinks worked through

And this is just activities that included me. In his first week of retirement, he spent two days at my house, chopping weeds and pulling out an invasive vine system in the woods. From sun up to sun down, he was pulling, whacking, and raking. Sound like any retiree you know? Probably not. Because he’s not “just your average…” anything. Aside from helping out his poor daughter with her overgrown yard, he also serves several organizations with his financial expertise, works out, and saves some time to hang out with the grandkids. I don’t see any indication of slowing down, do you?

I would say “Dad, welcome to your vacation period” but that’s just not accurate. Guys like my dad don’t rest.

So instead, I’ll say, “Dad, congratulations on trading one type of service for another.” I’m proud of you for so many reasons.

PS all the pictures in this post are from my ultra-talented brother

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True Story: “I wasn’t born with this nose” and other things Grandpa confided in me

“Grandpa, what do you mean you weren’t born with that nose?”

“It takes special talent to get a schnoz this pretty. Or maybe just three or four breaks.”

When my grandma died last fall, I started hanging out with Grandpa and keeping him company. It was then I realized I hardly knew him. See, I’d always talked to my grandma. We’d talk each other’s ears off. My grandpa would sit with us, smile and soak in the company, but not enter into conversation. In WWII, the gun blasts on his ship left him nearly deaf.

So now here we were, just the two of us on the couch. What would we talk about? Well, for a little while, nothing. But once we got a system of communication going, I got some awesome stuff out of him. I just had to sit by his good ear, enunciate, and let him read my lips.

“The first nose break was in a park. I was jumping out of a tree and knocked it with my knee. I shoved it back in myself.”

“What? Why’d you do that?” But he was on a roll.

“The next nose break was at the rollerskating rink. I was going too fast, and I stopped another guy’s head with my nose. The last break I got when I saw some kids on a trampoline. It looked fun, but we didn’t have one. So I jumped on a mattress in my basement. Knee to the ol’ schnoz again, but I had to go to the hospital. They cleaned it up real good there.”

“So Grandpa, how do you have a marriage that lasts 67 years?”

“Stay married.”


“Be sure your husband knows you care about him. Every day, make sure he knows for sure.”

“How come Grandma always won the arguments between you two?”

“She was the boss. And was so much prettier than me.”

When my Grandma died, Grandpa started confiding in me what it felt like to miss her. To lose a spouse. At first, I avoided the topic for his sake. But then I realized how much he liked talking about her, even if he was wiping at his eyes as he spoke.

“So Grandpa, what did you like about Grandma?”

“She wasn’t so ready to jump all over you. She was, you know, more independent. So we kept going. She was attractive, and she was a real good Christian. I knew she was a real Christian because I took some of the guys from the ship and visited her at church, at Moody. I never told her that. I saw the way she looked in church, and I just knew she was a born-again Christian.”

“So you liked her pretty quickly?”

“I liked her the first day I met her. And I liked her the day she went to heaven.”

Jacket G and G