And Then I Blinked

This blog entry will need an intro.  I wrote this piece on the occasion of my daughter Bailey’s marriage to her fiancee, John on July 17th, 2011.  My goal was twofold.  I wanted to have a chance to recollect some of my favorite memories all the while impressing on Bailey and John as well as their guests just how fast life can move.  I wanted to impart on them that it was important not only to make the memories, but to remember them and to retell them on those special occasions life offers.

Bailey and John promised me a chance to tell a story, provided I kept it to 5 minutes.  But there are too many to tell.  Better time me.  With a slight apology to Kenny Chesney, here goes.

 

It is April 21, 1984 and I am standing in the delivery room holding my baby girl.  22 hours of labor, and a C section to boot……… you were already stubborn then.  But what is her name I am asked…….”Bailey”. I respond with unimaginable pride.

 

And then I blinked….

 

I am standing along side my brother in his wedding party looking for you and mom in the front pew.  Seems you decided to make a bigger scene than the wedding and mom in her “patient” manner made you walk the 2 miles back to the farm…. before the wedding even begins.  A little of that stubborn streak again?  Oh by the way, you were far more elegant today babe.

 

And then I blinked….

 

You are suddenly 3 and I am ransacking the sitter’s house looking for your other shoe.  Seems I have fallen victim to the “hide the shoe” delay tactic.  I think this is when you started mentioning going to Shopko to get a new dad.  What aisle is that in and was I a blue light special?

 

And then I blinked …

 

I think you are 5 now and we are sitting on the couch together.  Mom needs you to say you’re sorry but you don’t think so.  Bernstein Bears to the rescue.  And it works… too well… from this point forward “sorry” is the easiest word in your vocabulary.  It will even get you in trouble later in High School.  Laps I think, for the whole team I believe!  There’s no sorry in softball.  But that’s another story.

 

 

 

 

And then I blinked …

 

When did you become this young lady?  You are ready for high school but not before you travel to Washington DC.  Even I hadn’t been there, but I felt like I had when I listened to your stories of the adventure.  That will become a theme with you.  Everything becomes an adventure.  Sure hope John is adventuresome.

 

And then I blinked …

 

You are in high school now and two sports have spurred your interest, Softball and Golf.  In softball you want maximum involvement so let’s be the pitcher, and golf….Really?   Can you pick more stressful sports for us to watch?  I had to spend your first golf season sneaking around the course so you wouldn’t see me.  By the second season we had developed our very own sign language.  And Softball, Just throw strikes, for God sake just throw strikes!

 

And then I blinked …

 

You’re in college now, about to realize your ultimate goal.  Hi dad, remember that goal of getting to ride the Zamboni, guess I’ll drive it instead.  You got to actually make the ice for the Badger practices at the Shell.  Badger hockey games would never be the same.  Now we evaluate the Zamboni driver’s skills during the intermissions.

 

And then I blinked…

 

You’ve graduated from college and you just finished your first interview.  How did the interview go? I think pretty well dad…. They gave me the job.  And another teacher is added to our family.  Good choice of subject by the way!  You had never wavered.  You told us in first grade you would be a teacher and now Verona just made it real.

 

And then I blinked…

 

And then there was John.  We’re at the Packer game and I am fired up for the game to begin, but who’s this guy that’s come down to our seats for a “visit”?  I’ve met several would be boy friends but there is something different this time.  I’ll need to keep an eye on this one.

 

And then I blinked…

 

And it was today and your arm is in mine and we are standing at the doorway to the rest of your life.  And you are beautiful and you are ready.  And I am incredibly proud to be your father.  I place your hand in John’s and I pray and I know that it is right.

 

John, I entrust you with my daughter, she is my heart, full of all the love and pride a father can have.  She comes with no instruction manual.  It is for you to figure it out, but feel free to ask for advice now and then. Take care of her heart and take care of each other.

 

In the words of one of my favorite singers “Live, Laugh and Love”  Always Together.  Just don’t blink.

 

Please raise your glasses in a toast to my daughter and my new son. 

 

May the love that has brought you together and the marriage that makes you whole, sustain you all the days of your life.  Cheers.

On Route 66

It is likely that some, maybe many who ever read this piece won’t have a clue who Todd and Buzz are, but for those of you who remember, I am now officially traveling down Route 66.  Even if just in my mind, the symbolism of this unfolds before me.  They of course had a Corvette. Me, just an Impala, at least for now.  One never knows.  Once sunshine and warm weather returns, a man’s attention pretty much drifts to cars and the open road.

When I turned 55, I kidded that I had reached open road speeds.  60 and I joked that I would pay for dinner with my IRA just because I could.  Guess you need to be a tax guy to get that one.  Just a year ago, I quipped that I was now at Interstate speed.  So today, I am going with Route 66.

The symbolism of Route 66, to me, is that just as the route opened up before its travelers and lead them to what ever adventure waited just around the next bend, life offers the same view.  I so dreaded entering the sixth decade of my life, and now half way through it, I have found new reasons to be optimistic.  I am actually embracing my age and looking forward to the road before me.  In the past year I have made decisions that have changed that entire view, and all for the better.  I am ready for my next set of adventures.

So move over Todd and Buzz.  It may be me in my Impala for now, but I am coming.  I will wave as I go by, eyes on the road ahead and the adventures that wait just around the next bend on Route 66.

A Shout out to the Millennials

Stay with me on this one.  And if you are a millennial, you are my focus reader.  The rest of us are depending on you.

There are two driving forces in the world.  One is optimism and the other is idealism.  Optimism is an act of hopefulness while idealism is believing in something we know to be right.  While optimism relies on the actions of others or maybe just dumb luck, idealism calls us into action.

The problem with idealism is that over time it wanes.  As we grow older and we add experience upon experience, we can become cynical.  When things we fought for don’t work out or maybe never come to fruition, we start to lose the optimism that our idealism needs as fuel.  We become less willing to fight the good fight and worse yet, we grow conservative in our thinking.  After all, you can only be disappointed so many times before you decide the price of idealism is just too high.

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and understand first hand what idealism feels like.  Our issues were an unwanted war in Vietnam, a corrupt President and a lack of respect for our environment.  I exercised my voice with my vote and my feet.  I protested in walks, sat at sit ins and wore my peace sign and POW bracelet.  Mine never came home and was never found, but I wore that bracelet until my idealism started to wane.  I was, as my children can attest to, a hippy as idealistic as they come.  I even found a way to trick my father into making peace signs on his punch press at the plant he worked in, but that is another story.

Even though my generation, the Woodstock Generation, has lost much of its idealism over the years, we never the less accomplished much.  The war eventually was abandoned, the President actually resigned and we now have, for the time being, the EPA.  Air quality was improved, water ways were cleaned up and we reduced our carbon footprint; though it still needs to continue its progress.

If there seems to be an echo here, I am hoping that you can hear its call.  As millennials you are well equipped to lead the next fight.  Your generation is networked, adaptive and opportunistic.  You have taken the internet to the social network it is today.  You are connected to people worlds away and yet you communicate as if they are in the same room.  You are graduating from college with degrees you may never find careers in but this does not deter you.  You adapt to the market place and redefine yourself and the job.  You are opportunistic.  You do not wait for opportunity to knock, you go looking for it and you seize it.

I am concerned with the state of politics and the impact on our nation and its image and yes, its future.  I will dig deep to find the willingness to fight but I need someone whose idealism is still fresh so that I may fight along side you.  Our hope is in the belief that your idealism will see us through this next round of appearing to step backward when we have been so poised to step forward.  I tip my hat to Janis Joplin in Me and Bobby McGee, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”.  We cannot lose our freedom to complacency. We cannot give it up to efficiency.  We cannot let it slip away to cost savings and we can certainly not let ignorance steal it from us.

Idealism has defined this nation.  Idealism is the force that makes us act.  I am encouraging you, the millennials, to hold dear to your idealism.  Define your issues, identify your fight and lead us forward to the next decade.  We are behind you because in that position we are ready to follow.  Lead us forward and we promise to stay focused and yes, even optimistic.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

Retirement..What’s a guy going to do?

After a lot of discussion and long consideration, I decided I was ready to retire.  I know how much I will miss many of the people I have shared office space with and I certainly will miss my clients and the opportunities they have given me to solve their problems and to be part of the planning for their future and often their retirements.  But the time had come and I knew that if I could take a year to say goodbye, I could move on.

It seems that once you announce your retirement you get one of two reactions.  The first comes from those who have gone before.  They tell you how great it will be and how you never realized how many things you never had time for.  The second group wants to know what you will do.  They are fearful, I suspect, that I won’t feel fulfilled.  I found myself detailing out my retirement and wondering if I was just making this stuff up to appease them.

I have decided to take a different tack.  With apologies to the writers of Sleepless in Seattle, here is how I am going to start answering their question.  I’m gonna get out of bed every morning….breathe in and out all day long.  Then after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out….and, then after a while, I won’t have to think how I had it great and perfect for a while.

The problem is, I can’t tell if people send you through this maze because they are jealous of your decision or if they are genuinely worried about you.  I am hoping for the second.  I have had a great career, twenty five years of teaching children the beauty of math and its ability to solve problems and then nineteen years of working with adults, helping them lay out plans and encouraging them to stay on track.  In between, I managed to do over 12,000 tax returns, work on construction crews to build dozens of homes and apartments and even spent a couple of years as a bartender.  The common thread in all of this was all the interesting people I met along the way, that I learned their stories and enjoyed the opportunities to assist them in any way I could.  I have had a rich career and I doubt I will fail in retirement.

I am going to heed my own words.  After a short vacation, I will come to appreciate that I have no obligations and in that freedom I will follow my passion.  I will volunteer when I need to be fulfilled.  I will travel when I need stimulation and I will write when the mood strikes me.  But above all I will try every day to fill my life with memories just as I have for the past 44 years.  Hopefully I might even succeed in writing something somebody will enjoy reading.

Stay tuned…I have just begun to be.