Tuesday, April 19, 2011

42 Years of Work & All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt (this is for you dad)

After 42 years working for the state, my dad is retiring from work this Friday (well, technically Thursday, they're closed on Friday). Forty. Two. Years. Serving the community of the State of South Dakota. It's not often that you hear of people who have basically worked for the same 'company' for forty two years.

Let me put that into perspective. My dad was hired in 1969. The same year that we put a man on the moon. That's black and white television people!

I'm sure my dad has seen numerous people come and go. A lot of his comrades have already taken that road to retirement, as he watched with a half-envious eye. But he stuck it out. The people that work with him now, may or may not know the amazing accomplishments he has had during his extensive career, but do they really know the man? I'm guessing they could have an idea. BUT....

I'm here to tell you *big sly grin*!

So, a list of things you may or may not know about James (Jim, Jimmy Bob, Bob) Douglas, in no particular order:

A long, long time ago, in a land not so far away, my dad played a mean acoustic guitar...

in striped shorts and black socks...

with cowboy boots.

Yep. Old West meets a hippy wannabe. He used to sing too, but just let me say, the stroke hasn't affected his singing ability. He used to play a song by Meatloaf, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" and he'd have me be the backup singer. To this day, "Bat Out of Hell" is one of my favorite albums (CD, whatever).

He used to make stop-motion videos with an 8mm camera. For those of you who don't know what that is...think of it as a precursor to Pixar. He used to make playing blocks chase one another and make him and his friends magically disappear from atop a picnic table. Truly amazing back then.

My dad used to be a land surveyor on the weekends. I seriously hated that. Because, let me tell you, holding zero was definitely NOT on a 15, 16, 17-year old girls' top list of things to do on a weekend. "Holding zero" meant that once he found the metal stake in the ground, my job was to hold the zero on the measuring tape over the stake while he took the other end where ever he had to go. I got paid $5 an hour to do this (which was beyond fair, actually). Here's the thing, my dad never wrote anything down until we were completely finished and back in the old orange metal truck. Then he would sit and do a quick sketch of the plot completely from memory.

My dad worked a lot, but he always managed to make some time for my brother and I. I still remember him helping Brant and I build a snowman out in the front yard. But not your ordinary snowman. Ours was a frozen replica of Snoopy. For the final touch, my dad spray-painted his ears, nose and eyes black. Can you say awesome? He built snow forts and took us sledding. I don't mean that he stood and watched, he was on the back of the sled right behind me.

He always loved going to the movies, and it was a special treat for him to take us...right after we stopped at the corner gas station where he loaded my brother and my pockets with candy bars and other goodies and then instructed us to keep our hands in our coats until we sat down. I think one of the first movies I got to see with my dad was Star Wars.

The original one.

My dad used to check my Trigonometry homework for me...in his head.

When my first dog, Bojo (named after the song, Mr. Bojangles) died at 16, he took her to the top of Flag Mountain and buried her there so "she could see where we used to live." We lived on Taylor and there wasn't a soul living on the mountain back then. She died during the night and my dad buried her before I could see her in that state.

My dad has NEVER, and I really mean NEVER EVER said anything bad, degrading or mean about ANYONE. I have never heard him. Even when he had every right in the world to do so and no one would blame him. He just didn't. He always found the good in everyone and still does.

In the same sense, when I was growing up, my mom and I would often be at odds. But even if he didn't agree with her, he didn't fail to back her up. They were always a team. A force to be reckoned with. I couldn't get my way with dad when mom had already told me "no." I think that says something about BOTH my parents.

My dad was the one who got me my first library card for the "grown up" section. I will forever be grateful as it fueled my love of mystery, thriller and who-done-it novels.

He had an uncanny ability to explain things to me in a way that I could understand. He had the patience to explain it over and over and over if need be.

He taught me to snow ski and how to drive.

I have, sometimes unfortunately, inherited his dry sense of humor. You just get it or you don't.

I could go on forever about how he dealt with his stroke and recovery, but let me just tell you that the doctors told my mother he would either die, or be a vegetable for the rest of his life. That gives you only an iota of the amount strength, faith and determination he has. Of course, because of that strength, faith and determination, the rest of you are stuck behind him in traffic..while driving...5 mph.
I know you see his red truck and take a different route.

I had more than my share of teen angst, boy problems, popularity problems and the huge drama high school can bring a girl or the feeling of being overwhelmed in college. I used to try to get my dad to help me. A lot times, I would get so frustrated because he would just sit there, for the longest time, and not say a thing. When he finally did speak, it was usually some short sentence that was supposed to make me feel better. At the time, I would sigh, roll my eyes and wonder why I had even bothered to talk to him. But, those sentences are the very core by which I try to live my life. Two of the most powerful statements were:

"What was meant to be, will be."

and one that I use often:

"Life is like eating an elephant, you do it one bite at a time."

Wisdom at its very simplest, and yet so widely profound. I think that pretty much describes my dad to a tee.

It's hard to know your co-workers for the person they are outside of that environment. This is just the tiniest glimpse of who he is as a whole.

Congratulations, dad. I love you and I'm proud of you. I hope you enjoy every minute of every single day without the responsibility of punching a time clock.

(Oh, and good luck to you too, mom *wink*).

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