Memories of Dad’s career

My parents are among the hardest working people I know. They never stop. They have worked hard their entire lives, volunteer, help friends and neighbors; and when they are done with all of that, they work on projects.

My Dad retired this year. After a full lifetime of skinned knuckles, long shifts, and responsibility, Dad was able to turn off his alarm clock. Neither of us are morning people so I think I know how rewarding that simple thing may be.

When my mom retired from Alpena Public Schools a few years ago I had the honor of giving her retirement speech at the APS retiree dinner. Dad’s retirement was with a bit less formality, and he probably likes it that way. During the days leading up to his final shift we talked and I reminisced about growing up at Dad’s work.

When I was a child, Dad worked at Shalla’s service station as a mechanic. My mom would take us to visit him if we were ever in town during the day to buy groceries, or meet him for a picnic lunch at the Duck Park on his break. To this day, the smell of an auto garage is one of my most favorite fragrances. It reminds me of safety and family.

When I started going to school at the old Junior High I would sometimes walk to Shalla’s after school and stay at Dad’s work until he ended his shift. Sometimes when I was sick Dad would pick me up and I would hang out in the break room on the wooden bench, listening to stories from the old customers that would hang out and drink coffee. Now, having children and a career myself, I realize how difficult it was to juggle it all. At the time, hanging out with Dad at work was just a part of everyday life.

Later, Dad took a career change and went to work at Lafarge. I was able to work at the cement plant for a few summers in a row as student help. My role was to do various cleaning jobs and paint. I was able to see Dad at the plant now and then and see that his days were long and demanding, but nevertheless, he always came home in a good mood.

I don’t know anyone who has a stronger work ethic than my parents. Even when they were not at work, they were working. Working on making improvements to their home, working on their farm, working on building projects, working on creative projects, working on things to help other people. Working on a task until it is done. No matter how unpleasant any task may have looked to an observer, nothing ever brought down Dad’s upbeat attitude about accomplishing a task. If there is a job to do, may as well have fun while doing it.

I’ve never known my Dad to not be working in one way or another. Engineering and welding together some sort of personalized farm implement to make a job more efficient. Getting up at 2 a.m. to go in for an early shift, coming home and working another eight hours on the farm. Putting his own projects on hold so he could go help a friend or neighbor with a job.

My mom told me that when I was a little girl I would somehow sense that Dad would be home soon. I would walk down the driveway and meet him at the end as he turned off the dusty country road. I now feel excitement for my Dad to explore new projects. Obviously, I don’t know a lot about retirement because I haven’t gotten there yet. But if anyone deserves a break from scheduled work right now, it would be my Dad. I hope his next chapter is filled with fishing, watching country sunsets with Mom; and working on whatever he feels like working on, whenever he feels like working on it.

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.