Sunday, January 6, 2013

40 Years of Memories

In preparation for my last day of employment and what will (hopefully) be a low key informal get-together in my office, I've been putting together a retrospective slide show of photographs from the past 40 years. So why am I doing my own slide show? Ask anyone I work with - it's one of those things that I do best. The other day I was visiting with a former colleague and he reminded me of the slide show I did in the early 1970s about which the program director said, "That's a fantastic slide show. I wish I had a program like that!" I guess maybe I oversold it a bit. By doing my own retirement retrospective, I can put my own spin on it. That PR person inside never goes away.

So, I admit it. When it comes to my day of departure, I am being a micro-manager. I do not want a big reception in a conference room where all of these people who I don't even know show up just because there's free refreshments. I don't want to listen to a bunch of speeches about how wonderful (or how awful) I am. I just want to eat some cake, drink some punch and visit with people I've known and worked with over the years. One of my coworkers and I often say that we've been together longer than most married couples. She and I have known each other about 38 years.

Over the holidays, I began searching through my boxes of photographs, picking out some that were snapped at work, just for no reason. Other photos were to recognize a departing employee, a college degree or a birthday. The far more interesting photos are the ones taken at the after-hours parties. We don't look like we had too much to drink, but we sure look happy!

There are photos from golf outings, Volkswalks, a wedding reception, concerts, business trips and yes, even vacations! One of our secretaries and her husband moved a few hundred miles away and another colleague and I were part of the moving caravan to see them off to their new home. They moved to a small town not far from the cabin I had at Lake McConaughy near Ogallala, Nebraska. We made a weekend out of it. My friend commented on a Facebook photo last week that she remembered laying tile in that cabin! I had forgotten all about it; but yes, that was one of the activities we did that weekend. We also did some water skiing. Not me, I drove the boat. Not very well. We all got sunburned.

As I was captioning the photographs for the slide show, I found I was typing "RIP" on entirely too many of them. There are so many people who have come and gone and passed on. This weekend's newspaper included the obituary of one of the women in my slide show. These losses have made me realize just how precious and short our time is.

Like many workers, I'm one of those who sometimes whines about things that gripe me or about people who aren't working up to my expectations. Don't we all at some point? In my head, I think I had convinced myself that all 40 years were like that. Looking through the photographs, I realize that there were more good times than bad. There were far more good people than bad. It's certainly helping me depart on a much more positive note.

Even as I look at the photos of some of these people who used to irritate me, I can no longer remember what they did to get under my skin. It's a good feeling to know that the memories of more difficult times have faded away.

As I look back and remember all of the people who I've known and worked with over the years, we have been through so much together - marriages and divorces, relationship breakups, the births of children and grandchildren, housewarmings, graduations, illnesses, deaths of our parents, deaths of our pets, and a revolving door of other employees who stayed a while and then moved on. There's quite a few people who have been part of my daily life for three to four decades. That's another reason why I don't want a formal reception. I don't want to cry in public and if anyone says something nice to me that day, it's going to be hard for me to hold back the tears.

copyright 2013 Susan M. Petersen

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