Wednesday was a big and important day in my life but it was even bigger and much more important in Mr. Right's life. I won't lie. I've convinced myself that I'm as excited or maybe even more so than he is. I don't know maybe it's a tie.
Here's where the story started. Forty-five years ago, in the middle of a beautiful Spring, we met and fell in love. I always think Johnny Rivers' lyrics 'all summer long we spent dancing in the sand' were written for us. We may not have danced in the sand to all the Beatle songs we learned and loved that summer but we spent the summer lost in love.
Somehow we both managed to hold down jobs despite our big distractions. I worked in Chicago where I spent my downtime writing love poems and he worked on the South Shore Railroad. That was great because he got free train rides and I had a monthly pass because the South Shore was my mode of commute. So we went to Cubs games and drank beer and rode the train. It was a wonderful summer but looming over us was the draft. Harry had dropped out of college so he was vulnerable.
We managed to avoid the topic as much as possible and he finally signed up for a deferred enlistment in the Air Force. Our plan was to get married in December and then in the Spring he'd join the Air Force and 'dI follow him.
Then two significant things happened. He gave his notice at the South Shore and immediately got a job at Midwest Steel where he'd worked two previous summers and the Draft Board called him in. He was ordered to report to the Army on November 1st; next stop Viet Nam. But since he'd signed up for a deferred enlistment in the Air Force he was able to enlist in the Air Force on October 31st. Whew! Talk about dodging a bullet - literally.
So he headed for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for basic training and then Tech School at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver where I joined him in March - but those are all stories for another time.
He had only worked for Midwest Steel a little over a month when he got the draft notice and the law required that jobs be held for our young men called to service. And four years later, he returned to Midwest without a break in time of service.
He's been there ever since. About four years into swing shifts, we'd both had enough of them and when an apprenticeship program opened up in the Utilities Department he applied for it and got it. He's been an Instrument Man ever since. Here he is at the bench where he spent much of the next 35 plus years.
And here's that old familiar bench decorated with celebratory balloons and a lunch box that served him for almost 40 years with only occasional handle repairs.
And then at the end of his last day I watched him head for the gate accompanied by the men from his shop - even the ones whe were working on into the evening accompanied him to the gate for the last time.
After maneuvering those balloons through the security gate,
that happy man tucked his security badge in his pocket for probably the 9,000th and last time.
After a few final, fond good-byes, we headed to Beth's house, where his kids had prepared a special retirement surprise for him.
He enjoyed a huge gift basket stuffed with golf and Cub amenities, golf gift certificates, restaurant gift cards, lottery scratch offs, and best of all pictures drawn by his grandchildren and great grandchildren depicting Grandpa in retirement and wishing him the best.
He thought we were stopping at Beth's to see the kids' costumes. We definitely caught him by surpise. Here he is next to Beth's message board complete with her artwork and stick figure. (He's always loved Beth's stick figure cartoons.)
Finally we posed for a last picture on this special day. Later we went out for a nice dinner and right now we're heading out of town for a few days.
In conclusion, I'd first want to wish him the finest retirement possible. And then I'd like to wish that every person that reads this (who isn't already retired) gets to experience this exhilarating time in their lives.
Oh! What a feeling!