My last week of work was a week of goodbyes. It was rather bittersweet, because even though we say "stay in touch," I know that this week was probably the last time I will see many of the people from my work life. On the other hand, there is a solid core group of friends who I know will still be a part of my life forever.
I had already taken charge of the plans for retirement festivities at work - because I wanted to have the kind of day that I wanted it to be - not someone else's idea of what it should be. There would be no speeches, no formal presentations. I just wanted some time to say goodbye and for colleagues to stop in and chat a few minutes about our shared memories.
For the last two or three weeks, I had gathered up old photographs of people I'd worked with, traveled with and partied with over the past 40 years. I had to borrow a few more photos from coworkers to fill in a few blanks for the retrospective slide show. There were literally hundreds of photographs. This was no surprise to me because most of the group of friends I have socialized with over the years have been people I've met through my job. So, in addition to "water cooler photos" taken at the office, there were photos of us on weekend outings, golf outings, holiday celebrations, road trips, weddings - you name it. Sadly, far too many of the people have passed on and I marked their photos with "RIP." Two of them passed during the time I was working on the slide show.
I had fun assembling the slide show and it gave me an opportunity to learn the Keynote slide show app on the iPad. I knew that the slide show had to be portable and this worked out great. The slide show was definitely NOT an ego-based tribute to me. Heavens no! It was a tribute to the many good people who weaved in and out of my life over the past 40 years - some staying a little longer than others. And it provided a memory of the good times we had shared.
For the old timers, it was a trip down memory lane. The new people in the office got to see why some of us have a close bond from our shared experiences. And they got to see us when we were thinner or fatter, blonde or brunette, athletic or frumpy. We've been through it all.
Once the cake arrived and the punch was mixed, people showed up with cameras. I posed with my cake, my flowers (thank you, Lisa!), and my plaque. Then I posed with our original group of four who have been together for 27 years. Then I posed with the Finance department, then with those from our current staff who were available. There were so many photos being taken, I quipped that I felt like I was Lindsay Lohan!
Once the cake was cut, I made sure I had some set aside to bring home to share with my 86 year old Dad. I've been his caregiver for the past eight and a half years and he is as pleased as punch that he'll have some company during the day now.
Forget trying to wrap up those last few emails and last bits of correspondence. That wouldn't come until later in the afternoon.
During the day, the song playing in my head was Shania Twain's Today is Your Day. If you've ever listened to the lyrics, you'll understand why I think this will be the theme song for my retirement years. Already, I had moved on from Johnny Paycheck's Take This Job and Shove It!
I slipped off for a nice lunch with Lisa and Jane at El Potrero. This was another bittersweet moment - my last lunch break with good friends. But - it's knowing that we all know we will continue to be in touch with one another. There are still a lot more lunches for us to share together.
As the afternoon waned, I wrapped up the last few bits of bureaucratic paperwork. As the time drew near, I checked the countdown app on my iPhone, watching it go from 10 seconds to 1 second to Zero. It was definitely a much more exciting countdown than watching the Times Square ball drop on New Year's Eve. It was a good thing that I had already removed my few personal belongings because I still had a lot to carry with the beautiful yellow roses and cards. I was headed out the door when Jane noticed I hadn't taken the big heavy sweater I kept around for the days when the offices were cold.
Then, officially retired, I moved on to my "real" retirement celebration - a gathering of friends and colleagues from over the years who met me at our traditional watering hole - Tico's. Many an evening had been spent there, hashing out our frustrations from work, complaining about our bad bosses and difficult coworkers and just having fun. It was our version of Cheers, so it was an appropriate place to say goodbye.
Several of the folks who I hadn't seen during the day joined me at Tico's, as did a couple clients I'd become friends with over the years. We pretty much filled the entire bar. A special treat was a visit from my friend, Curt, who I've known since the late 1970s. We had worked on a documentary film together and still laugh about the business trip we made to Columbus, Ohio right before Christmas one year. We traveled all that way for a training seminar that was conducted by someone we knew from Lincoln! Curt and his partner made the two-hour drive from Grand Island for the party, so it really meant a lot to me that they were there to help me celebrate.
More photographs were taken, many of which I haven't even seen yet. As people drifted off and left the festivities, there were the strongest and longest bear hugs I think I've ever given or received. These really were "my" people. Many of us made promises to stay in touch, have lunch and email addresses were exchanged. And I really think that I'll be seeing some of these folks again. I hope so.
You got what it takes, you can win.
Today is your day to begin.
Don't give up, don't you quit.
The moment is now, this is it.
Today is your day and nothing can stand in your way.
Today is your day and everything's going your way.
-- Shania Twain
copyright 2013 Susan M Petersen
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