Today starts my 75th trip around the Sun. Wow…I never dreamed as a kid I would ever be that old, but here we are. It’s been an interesting ride to say the least and I have a lot to be grateful for.
My first 74 trips weren’t all wine and roses by a long shot. Neither were they hell on earth. I had my share of the up and down cycles of life that everyone has to go thru. Some of the downs were of my own making; some were due to other people imposing things on me I didn’t like to which I rebelled. And maybe some were just as the saying goes “(#&&$) happens.” Whatever the reason, they all had a hand in forming my character and my outlook on life, besides teaching me a lot of hard lessons.
On the opposite hand, the good things made many lasting memories. I’ve written about spending a lot of time on my grandparents farm in Ohio. As a kid, it was the perfect place to grow up. I got to see what farm life was all about; I could run and play in the barn, the creek, the woods without fear; I learned what it took to run a farm as I grew up and paid more attention to what grandpa did every day. I miss that experience and wish my kids would have had the same experiences.
I was also blessed with two beautiful daughters, both of whom are very talented in their own right. My oldest, Tara, is a writer with two published book; works with LA County as a CASA (Children’s Advocate) worker, helping children in court proceedings; does pod casts about relationships and other topics; is the mom of two more talented kids. Her oldest has her master’s degree from Columbia in Human Rights, while her son works with his dad in the family business.
My youngest, Jennifer, runs to the beat of her own drummer. She is a single mom with two kids who are as well grounded as any two siblings can be. Her daughter is a 16 year old sophomore in high school; a budding artist and social activist. Her son is a 20 year old sophomore at CSUN (Cal. State University – Northridge) in LA. He is studying for a business degree. Kate (as I call her) is also an avid runner, mountain climber (even as I write this she is climbing), cyclists, and professional photographer, besides holding down a full time job.
Then, I was blessed with a fine young man I am proud to call my son, thru my second marriage. Kery has his own welding business in the LA area; has always been a hard working kid; and works on some really neat construction projects around the LA area.
During my working career which lasted 53 years, I went thru a lot of ups and downs as well. My first 20 years were spent in a Rockwell Automotive plant in my home town of Newark, Ohio. It was a hard nose union plant where I had to grow up fast or get lost in the shuffle; fight for what was mine or go home. Many of those lessons were hard to learn. I rebelled against many of them and had to learn to pick and choose my battles. But all in all, those years served me well for what was to come later.
I left Rockwell in 1985 and went to LA to work at IBM. At the time, I felt it was a dream job, although I wasn’t quite prepared for the LA area. My home town was about 45,000 people in size; LA was several million? I was in for some big time culture shock. As I was flying into LAX, the plane flew over the mountains east of LA and all of a sudden there was nothing but lights as far as I could see. My first thought was, “What did I get myself into.” It took a lot of patience to get used to the traffic and atmosphere of this strange place.
I worked with some really great folks at IBM; got to work on some interesting projects; traveled around the US and went to London for an IBM conference. Once inside IBM, I realized they had as many quirks and things I didn’t like as Rockwell had; they weren’t the super smart, efficient business an outsider thinks they are. As with Rockwell, they wanted things done a certain way and at times I rebelled again. Having been “Mr. Customer” of IBM in my previous job, I didn’t like some of the marketing tactics used by some of their marketing rep’s. I thought they outright lied to customers on occasion. When I called them out, I was chastised for it. I took that with me for future reference.
In 1992, IBM went thru a corporate down sizing exercise, cutting some 6000 jobs world wide – I was one of those cut. This was the first time in my career I had ever been out of work, and it scared the hell out of me. But, with the support of my wife, we made it thru and came out better in the end. My wife has always stood beside me and supported me in any project I have taken on, as I have for her. She is the rock of my life. I am forever grateful for having married her and spending the last 33 years with her.
Life for us hasn’t been always easy. When I was laid off, I went to work as an independent contractor and things went well for a while. Then a freak accident put her in the hospital with a nasty broken ankle. I had to pull back from contracting to take care of her and find a full time job again. When I did, it was in San Diego and I was driving back and forth on week ends. We finally moved to San Diego and were there for 10 years.
Along the way her mother came to live with us. Mother Booth was with us 13 years and we witnessed how time takes a toll on us frail humans. As her health declined, so did her mental faculties due to dementia. She suffered a broken hip; we dealt with nursing homes, Medicare/Medicaid and other insurance issues; we dealt with her declining ability to care for her own personal hygiene issues. When she passed at age 93, we had about two years to ourselves before my mom came to live with us.
Those two years we felt like kids. It was the first time in our marriage where it was just “us”. We had always had someone living with us; someone we took care of. Now we had to figure out what to do with ourselves. We traveled when we could, especially over our wedding anniversary week. That was our standard present to us each year – take a trip over Thanksgiving when we got married. We have many good memories of those trips.
Soon after, my mom came to live with us. I became the end of the line, so to speak, to be her caretaker. Both of my brothers had died within three months of each other. Mom had lost her husband as well and had no one but me to look after her. At first she was pretty much self sufficient, but like my mother in law, time took its toll on her health. Over the 14 years she was with us, we went thru many of the same problems all over again until she passed in 2019 at the age of 92.
One thing I’m glad I did with my mom was to sit down with her and talk to her about her childhood and what she knew about my dad before they got married. She talked freely about her childhood during the Depression, but wouldn’t talk much about my dad. She always claimed it was too painful. I could understand her feelings, as I had witnessed how mean he could be growing up under his roof. He was brutal.
During the time my mom was with us, I had the chance to take the job of a lifetime for me. It would be my last hoorah before I retired – I went to work at Boeing in Seattle as a contractor. The last 20+ years of my career were in the aerospace industry, with a lot of it working for Boeing’s tier one sub-contractors. My ultimate goal was to work directly for them in Seattle. When I got a call asking me if I wanted to come work for them, I jumped on it like a dog on a bone. My nine months there were the highlight of my career. I made many new friends; got to see much of the assembly processes of several versions of Boeing aircraft; as an employee, I got to go right down on the assembly line and watch (and touch) 747 aircraft being built; I got to see the parts I was making at my plant actually assembled into finished aircraft. I came home and retired a happy camper.
Seventy-five years seems like a long time when you are a kid. Now…well, where has the time gone? It has gone way too fast and seems to get faster each passing year. I’ve enjoyed my life as I look back on it. It’s much easier to even appreciate the down times from this vantage point than it was to live them. The good times still bring a smile to my face as I remember the memories my wife and I have made since we met 34 years ago. I love her now more than ever and hope we have many more years together. And I can’t thank her enough for the son she gave me.
Life is a challenge even in the best of times. When we have to live thru such things as unemployment, pandemics, all sorts of mayhem, and political strife. One could rightfully wonder if it is all worth it. To those thoughts I would say, absolutely. Life is beautiful – even with its warts. Cherish it; enjoy it; make the most of it; and never be afraid to tell your family how much they mean to you or how much you love them. Tomorrow may not come for you.