Remember how A Tale of Two Cities started? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I’ve always thought living with teenagers is like that. Adolescents are so funny and smart and energetic. And awful. Let’s not forget awful. They can turn every sweet dream into a nightmare. And the other way around. No matter how badly a day begins, its ending can be made deliriously happy by a hug from a kid. And then, all of a sudden, they leave. I remember so well, all three times, when my kids went away to college. I thought—selfishly, I suppose—that whichever one was leaving had been part of my every day for 18 years and now my life was going to change irrevocably. (Their lives were changing, too, but that’s incidental. Remember selfish?) I was excited for both the kid leaving home and for Duane and me. And, just for me, sad. Gosh, yes, sad.
Fast forward…oh, a long time. I’m ending a job where I’ve spent over 30 years. I was one of the lucky ones who always liked most of what I did, who found ways around the parts of it I hated, who loved most of the people I worked with. There were long and boring days, when I thought it would surely kill me to work there until retirement, but the years were astoundingly short.
Near the tired ends of those longest days, customers would say, sometimes bitterly, “At least you have a job.” And they were right. It was one that provided a living wage and benefits that aren’t found that often anymore, too. All I had to do was work really hard and grit my teeth when customers were at their cantankerous worst. When my kids were in school, I had to master being in three places at one time. (It can be done. Ask any mom.) When I was so tired I didn’t think I could face driving to Logansport one more time, well, too bad. I could and I did. I made the mistake of saying, in boastful wonder, that I’d driven that 50-some mile round trip for 30 years and never hit a deer. It was only a few weeks later that Bambi’s father and I had a radical misunderstanding on State Road 25.
I am so grateful for all of those things. And for the ability and the desire to work hard, the fact that the wages and benefits were enough, the 90-some percent of customers who were nice to deal with, and the kids I got to be with in three places at once.
Like Mr. Dickens said, “…the best of times…”
So last Thursday, after two days of calling in and whining that I was snowed in, I worked my last day at the aforementioned job. I took in my uniform shirts to give away. I accepted congratulations and hugged people all day long, laughing a lot and sniffling some and thinking, I’ll never do this again, every time I performed a task. I posed for pictures and said, yes, I was very excited. And sad. Gosh, yes, sad. When the day was over, I stood at the time clock for the Lord knows how many-eth time and just looked at it, thinking once more, I’ll never do thisagain.
“…the worst of times…”
I’m writing this from the snowy side of a mountain in Vermont. (That was redundant; everything in Vermont is snowy.) I’m using one son’s computer while yet another walks around with a blue-eyed nephew held high in his arms. Family members have skied and snowboarded. We’ve gone to a concert and eaten way too much. I talked to my daughter and found out that the grandson who was sick is feeling better, that she’s fed the cats in my absence, and that it’s snowed more in Indiana, too.
It’s Sunday night and I’m not thinking about going to work tomorrow or the next day or the next. I’m pretty sure the ache of missing it will dissipate soon and I, who love routine, will establish a new one for myself. I’ll write more, sew more, maybe even find the bottom of the pile of clutter on the kitchen island. I’ll walk and ride the Trail and spend time with people I haven’t seen nearly enough of in recent years. It will be, as in retrospect they all have been, the best of times.
I can't wait for you to start writing again. Still waiting to read how Early's life ends up :)
And I love the idea of finding ways around the parts of your job that you hate. What a great and positive outlook. I never thought about it like that but that's kind of the way I feel about my job as well.
Now, get back to Early! # posted by Margie : February 9, 2011 at 7:46 AM
Thanks for stopping, Margie, and for the comment. I'm so excited. # posted by Liz Flaherty : February 9, 2011 at 8:41 AM
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