Well, this won’t exactly be a typical post, so prepare yourself. Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the retirement party that my dad’s coworkers threw for him. There is no other way to put it, other than it blessed my heart. Truthfully, I don’t think that I can quite find the words to express all that I felt tonight.
See, Dad went there thinking that not many people would show up, but actually forty-two people gathered around to celebrate this time with him. Some of his coworkers at Itchetucknee (spell?) had contacted many of the people that he had worked with over the years (at the other state parks that he had worked at), and almost all of them showed up for the party. Needless to say, my dad was pleasantly surprised. He was totally the masculine form of the ‘belle of the ball.’ As he sat talking with all of his good friends, I could tell that he was truly happy.
After dinner, they started a very nice presentation, and gave gifts. All of the gifts were so thoughtful and sweet…dad even got choked up at one point. I honestly believe that he didn’t think that that many people cared. They gave him two beautiful plaques (one that has pictures of 3 of the main parks that he worked at…it’s beautiful), a gold watch, a bunch of Skoal (go figure…hahah) and several other things. After opening the gifts, Mrs. Patty asked people to stand up and say some things about him. I will try to write some of the comments that people said. One man said “He was one of the hardest workers that I ever had the privilege of working with.” Another lady said “It didn’t matter if you were having the worst day, a few minutes of talking with Jackie and your day would turn around. He always kept us in stitches.” Another said “He really taught the inmates how to work. But he found ways of making them work (like having competitions between themselves) without yelling at them. He worked with them, he didn’t just stand back and let them do all of the work. He worked right beside them. And he always made them feel like human beings…not prisoners. By the time they left his crew, they knew how to work and support themselves.” And the one that stood out to me was “He was a very hard worker. If we had more people in America that had his work ethic, we wouldn’t be in the predicament that we’re in now.” My dad is a very hard worker. He has always been that way…in whatever he was doing.
Well after the presentation, people began sharing stories. This went on for an hour and a half. Everyone was laughing and having a good time. Almost everyone in the room had a story to tell about dad. It was such a good fellowship time. There were a lot of memories shared, and once again my dad was SO happy.
As the party was coming to a close, I had many people come up and speak to my mom, Rheba and me. Everyone kept saying “You don’t know how lucky you are to have a dad like him.” “This man has touched my life.” “Take care of Jackie in his retirement, he is very near and dear to my heart.” My heart was filled with pride for him. He has meant so much to so many people and I don’t think that he will ever realize how much. But hopefully he got a glimpse of a small portion of it tonight.
While dad was driving home tonight he said, “You know, I didn’t take on the inmates because I wanted an ego trip or anything. It was still really hard work. I took them on because I knew that if I did, I would always have weekends off. I just wanted to be able to spend time with you girls. I wanted to be able to spend time with my family…that’s why I did it.” Well, I’m not one for emotion, but I have to say that I got a little teary-eyed. See, a lot of people like to crack jokes about the way my dad dresses, or snub him because they think that they’re above him. But let me tell you something, those that snub him are just missing out on knowing a great person. He will never dress fancy. He will never be a millionaire…but my dad is DEFINITELY worth knowing. And my dad is as hard-working as they come. He has been a wonderful father to me and my sister, and been a great role model for so many people. He means more to us than he will ever know. I now think back on the times that I’ve taken him for granted, not really seeing him for what he is…and I hate that.
So…to sum this all up, tonight was a good night. No better than that, it was a GREAT night. Dad really got to see how much he meant to a lot of people. So, I am very happy…and blessed because of it.