His solid white beard was perfectly trimmed. Occasionally, when he was trying to describe something, he’d take off his company cap and run his fingers through his full, thick head of equally white hair. It was a stark contrast to his deep black, wire-rim glasses.
Today’s his last day on the job. He’s been preparing a long time for retirement, and now, it’s here.
As we all went through the day, I’d stop by and say things to acknowledge him.
“You know, this is the last 9:15 AM at work in your career”.
He stayed busy, in thanks partly to a number of phone calls from folks he’d worked with. He said, “I’ve just been really surprised by how many nice things folks have said to me.”
I nodded my head.
“What are you doing for lunch? Today’s your last lunch hour on the job”.
I sat down in the afternoon and asked ‘do you remember’ questions. We laughed and reminisced about common experiences having worked at the same place the last 25 years.
He talked quietly, quieter than normal, and although he’d laugh, today it wasn’t his normal belly laugh. His laugh was more contemplative, like I’m laughing on the outside, but I’ve got a lot of feeling going on in the inside.
“You know, today’s the last time you’ll get home from work and it’ll be dark.”
At one point, he changed the subject to his shirt. “My wife told me to wear one of the two brand new shirts hanging up in my closet. I didn’t even know I had new shirts, from Christmas, or birthday, or something.”
He looked down at the XL long sleeve shirt he was wearing that had thin white and baby blue vertical stripes. He showed me how long the arms were on it, and how because it was for tall men, it wouldn’t pull out of his faded blue jeans when he reached over his head.
We talked about his other new shirt hanging in his closet. I understood. Let’s talk about something that has no emotions tacked to it.
Well tomorrow, you oughta wear your other new shirt just for grins.
We visited about a trip he and his wife want to take to the New England states in the fall, and about gardening, fishing, and his long list of honey do jobs. We talked about Social Security, the cost of living, and how long he will keep his current pickup truck.
Men often deal with things differently. We talk about stuff. Stuff is easier to talk about. It’s too hard talking about feelings, especially with another man, and most especially when he’s feeling things deeply.
I looked up about 4:00 PM as he walked up the hallway in his boots, faded blue jeans and brand new shirt.
“How about that? That’s your last full cup of afternoon coffee while getting paid. You may have to come in next week about 3:00 and make a pot!”
He grinned, searching for something witty to say, but his normal wit was a little slower than normal today.
I called him by name. “What’s the one thing you’d do different in your career?”
He took a deep breath, put his hand up to his chin with his forefinger on his cheek and sighed, “Hmm”. He stared up at a ceiling corner for a minute, shook his head, and said, “I can’t think of anything I’d would’ve done different.”
“Wow! That tells me you have no regrets.”
He looked surprised, thought again for a moment, then shook his head affirmatively. No regrets.
I couldn’t leave it like that. It was too serious.
“You know, tomorrow you’ll be full of regrets if right before you leave today you don’t stop by the General Manager’s office and moon him.”
He finally let out his full belly laugh before saying, “Well, the day’s not over yet!”
But now it’s quitting time. The day is over.
“Well that’s the last time you’ll drive through that gate in your career.”
Tomorrow, he starts a new life chapter.