Last Saturday we packed up the family and headed to Nashville for my dad's retirement party. It was a fun evening at the marina with good food and a lot of people who are really special to my dad. I hadn't seen some of his co-workers since our wedding almost eight years ago, so dad and I played some stealth games of, "Who's that again?" and no one was the wiser.
I was surprised by how much the prospect of his retirement affected me. He's been working for the same company since I was two, so I don't remember him ever working anywhere else. I think his office may have changed locations a few times, but he's always been on the same floor of the same building for as long as I can remember. There has, of course, been a lot of turnover in his 30 years there, but many of his coworkers have watched me grow up (or have at least heard stories about me growing up). They are people that I don't see but once in a blue moon, but they are also people who make up a kind of invisible network that encircles me. It has happened before that I have forgotten that my dad is going out of town and I haven't been able to get hold of him. I needed only to call up one of his longtime coworkers, identify myself by first name only and ask, "Do you know where my dad is?" This elicits a chuckle and a quick explanation, usually followed by a lightbulb appearing over my head as I recall. I have rarely needed them, but I always knew they would be there for me.
It will be strange not to dial that phone number when I need to find him during the day. It will be strange not to meet him for lunch at that same downtown building I've been driving to by myself since I was sixteen. It will be strange not to say, "My dad's an engineer for the XXXXX."
He will be starting a new job soon because he can't stand to not be working. But those people won't be my nearly-invisible-and-hardly-needed-but-always-on-call support . They might think it's weird if I call up one day and say, "Do you know where my dad is?"
On the other hand, it's a real privilege, I think, for an adult child to be able to celebrate something joyful with a parent. It often happens that the milestones adult children are around for are deaths and moves out of family homes. So it was great to be able to celebrate with him, to tell him that I'm proud of him, and to see him so happy and surrounded by so many people who care about him.
And I guess it's up to me now to remember when he's gone out of town.