About a year ago I was at my dad’s house and somehow our conversation turned to his career. My dad is of the generation that spent their entire career with one employer, had great benefits, got promoted, and then retired. Isn’t that what we all hear? These days no one does that. It’s a dog eat dog world and you’re wearing Milk Bone underwear! Things were easy in the old days. You started a job, worked 40 years, got a gold watch and an Oldsmobile, then moved to The Villages. At least I thought it was that innocuous. I learned some pretty cool things in that conversation…
My dad’s first job out of college was as an Assistant manager of a retail paint and glass store. That meant he opened and closed, waited on customers, worked holidays, stuff like that. He could have just as easily done the same thing at his father’s appliance and repair store. It was a family business that my grandfather ran with his brothers (and a couple of their sons), but for personal reasons that he explained to me, he decided to break away from that. Let’s just say that as a 21 year old new grad, I would not have had the maturity to do what he did. The paint store job didn’t work out, so he started looking again.
Louisiana in the early 60’s had a booming petroleum business and a new “Oil Center” was opening in his hometown of Lafayette. Lots of oil companies were hiring so he went and applied for a Finance position. Thought he had it wrapped up. Then he found out that he wasn’t getting the finance job. But the guy offered him a Labor job. In another city. So…the office job where he was living wasn’t there, but a gig loading boats in another city was available. Oh…and he had to move himself and his wife there on his own dime. What did he do?
After a year or so of getting rained on and being cold and being hot while he loaded boats in the new city, he decided working in the warehouse would be better. Even though it was a salaried job and he wouldn’t be bringing home that sweet overtime to his wife who was now pregnant with their first kid. But he did it anyway. Eventually he made it to an office job after moving his family again which lead to an opportunity to move to “home office” in yet another city. During this time another kid came along, as well as a better car and a nicer home. Things are awesome, eh?
Yea, well, everything except that whole, headquarters thing. Seems there are lots of rules. Rules that, to a guy in his late 20s, seemed kind of silly. Eventually he was told that he might not be cut out for home office. Eventually he made it back to yard where he started off as a Laborer. Except now he was running the place. Again, things are awesome, eh?
Then came a recession and lots of layoffs. He got moved again and tried to dig in roots. His family was at the age where some stability would be nice. He made some really tough decisions and had to do some really tough things. Things that impacted people he had worked with for years. Eventually his only option was to move back to headquarters and work for someone that had previously worked for him. At the end of his career he sat on a project and basically served as a voice of experience as the company implemented what was to become its enterprise resource planning system. Then he got an early retirement package. That’s a nice way of saying he got laid off, but with a decent buy out.
I thought I knew my dad. He was, afterall…my dad. But I learned a lot about him from that conversation. He was a risk taker. He was a rebel. He made hard choices and worked really hard. He put up with drunks, jerks, and morons. He learned from great mentors and mentored others. He thought about his family and did what he had to do for us even when it was something he didn’t want to do. I learned my dad was pretty freaking awesome. And isn’t that what every dad wants to know on father’s day?
If your dad is still here, sit and talk to him about what he does or used to do. If your dad isn’t around, talk to a grandfather or father figure. If you can’t do any of those, go to the Town House and ask one of the guys at the counter. Talk to older people about what they used to do and the choices they made. Then ask if they have kids. If so, tell them happy father’s day and make sure that they tell those stories to their kids at some point. Companies and careers and the paths they lead us on may be different these days. But people never change. And everyone has some awesome in them.
I love you Pop.