I have the unique privilege of being surrounded by a host of family and friends who are consistently thoughtful and kind. Actually, that has been true for the entirety of my life. I’ve done nothing to deserve it, but folks consistently surround me by putting their best foot forward.
In retrospect, I have to confess that I was a little anxious about yesterday’s retirement party in my honor at Miracle Farm in Brenham. When my boss mentioned hosting a party several weeks ago, I thanked him and immediately pushed the thought outside my mind.
Yesterday morning as the General and I made our way toward Brenham, she said: “You are a little uncomfortable with this aren’t you?” I responded, “It’s not that I’m uncomfortable, I just hate to be in a situation where I am the center of attention.” She reassured me that I’d be okay and we continued our journey while I silently attempted to get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation.
Maybe I’m weird, but I have the same response to birthday celebrations or anything else where I’m the center of attention. It is always a little uncomfortable for me. It is much easier for me to host a party for someone else than to be the honoree.
As I drove, I had the thought: “I should have formulated some kind of script related to comments I’d want to make at the end. I don’t handle impromptu well, but knowing that didn’t motivate me to play it out differently. I guess I simply defaulted to the “que sera sera “ – whatever will be will be mindset.
So what would I say? I honestly didn’t know apart from my telling myself that I’d embrace some semblance of humor and attempt to orchestrate a laugh. Even that got short-circuited when my boss mentioned in his introductory comments that he had invited several folks to speak and imposed a three-minute time limit. He also reminded folks speaking of the ground-rule: “This is not a roast”.
I immediately felt my anxiety rising. I thought to myself: “I can hold my own with a roast”. I am one of those guys that can both dish it out and take it. I actually like the banter of back and forth. Sure, I could handle the roast, but that possibility was no longer on the table-so-to speak.
Fear immediately replaced my anxiety. What would I do if something shared tugged at my heartstrings and my eyes filled with tears? Awkwardly, I remembered leaving my boss’s office at some point after having made him aware of my plans for retirement. I simply made the statement: “This is proving to be a lot harder than I ever imagined”. I then attempted to exit stage right before the tears came, but I didn’t make it. He too, was teary eyed. Consequently, the whole business of timing around retirement is a tough and emotional issue.
“Greatly humbled and honored” is probably the best description of my experience yesterday. For one thing, the number of people who came amazed me. I was expecting a very small group at best. Seriously, yesterday was billed as having the possibility of being the hottest day of the year. In addition, people are busy. For the vast majority of those invited to the celebration, getting to Miracle Farm and back to their location of origin would be a time-consuming process. It wasn’t just down the street or across town. It was a sacrificial gift on their part to simply show up. Yet they did show up and it proved to be a large gathering. Wow! What a thoughtful and sacrificial gift of their time.
The folks who spoke were flawless in their delivery and the heartfelt wonderful things they shared about our relationship and friendship tugged at my heartstrings. I was teary eyed more than once, but I decided to simply enjoy the affirmation that I am loved. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
My boss also colored outside the lines and unbeknown to me, had invited my son to speak. In Craig’s introductory comments, he said: “I took a quick poll during lunch and discovered that folks generally fall into one of three categories: (1) They are here to congratulate my dad on a successful career and wish him the very best in retirement, (2) they are here to make darn sure that he is actually retired, or (3) they are just here for the free lunch.” He then added, “That was just a poll of our family members”.
He also added: “So, who is Don Forrester? He’s a husband, a father of two exceptionally gifted and talented kids, he’s a Granddad, the King of Adventure, an author, blogger, pastor, friend, and self-described ‘old child welfare worker’… So what fuels an old child welfare worker that spans the better part of five decades? For my dad it has been the guiding principle that it shouldn’t hurt to be a child. Not only has Dad provided a loving and supportive home for his own family, he’s dedicated his life to providing that same experience for many others.”
Craig also thoughtfully added: “Though today’s festivities are primarily focused on my dad, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my mom as well. Though it sounds a bit cliché to say that behind every good man is a great woman; Mom has been there beside him providing the love and support that he needed every step of the way. She’s ensured that our household ran like a well-oiled machine while Dad was out saving the world. We love you both and are excited to see what the next chapter brings.”
Honestly, the day and celebration exceeded my expectations or frame of reference as to what it could even hold. It could not have been more affirming or more positive. Being surrounded by folks that I respect, love and value as friends was the perfect formula for a retirement celebration that will be permanently etched in my memory.
All My Best!