Pausing to praise the man behind the mug
'Cause there's no hall of fame for that working class hero/
No statue carved out of stone/
His greatest reward is the love of a woman/
And his children/
So after he's gone/
That old working class hero lives on.
For most of my life, I’ve stumbled over the answer to the question, “What’s your dad do?”
It was easy with Mom: she’s a teacher. “What does my mom do? She’s down the hall. Go ask her.”
With Dad it’s slightly more complicated. “Um, he works for the government … we’ve moved a couple times … I don’t really know.”
At one point in middle school some of my friends were convinced Dad was a secret agent of some description. Dad, of course, wouldn’t say one way or the other. Which was fine with me.
But the truth is, for the better part of 30 years, my dad, Bruce, has worked for the United States Department of Agriculture. In the beginning, his agency was known as Farmer’s Home Administration (it’s now called U.S.D.A. Rural Development).
It’s one of those agencies charged with helping non-profit interests and public bodies (like rural water authorities) find ways to get help from the federal government. Blustery politicians and their media mouthpieces enjoy demonizing such agencies, even as they’re meeting with them behind closed doors in an attempt to secure funding for their next big project (for which they will take most of the credit). And the people who work in these offices don’t ask for any credit — they just sign the papers and fade into the background.
Which is why it wasn’t a huge surprise that Dad decided to handle this news in a similarly unceremonious fashion: One day this past spring, while we were in the car together, he tapped me on the shoulder, grinned and said, “Hey man … I’m retiring.”
Now … I’m a writer. In my head I picture someone delivering news like this in grandiose fashion: Everybody gathers into a small room with dozens of cameras and microphones, a hush falls over the crowd, and the retiring party sheepishly announces the news, as though he can’t believe so many people would be so interested in his life (even though his people are the ones who organized the even to begin with).
Just this past year, the news has been primarily dominated by sports figures who intentionally dragged out their own retirement drama, just to squeeze out a few more moments of fleeting fame (see Favre, Brett).
Dad has steadfastly refused any such attention or affection, even refusing to give an official notice at work until two weeks prior. He delivered a few “thank-yous” at a small luncheon at his office last week, and Thursday (that’s today if you’re reading our printed edition) he’ll go in around 7:30, work until about 4, then lock the door and go home, just like always. Won’t be a single camera there to take his photo or one writer there to give the event a poetic celebration.
OK, there might be one.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
shameless promotion (2.0), part xvi
Editor's note: In this blog's renewed attempt to promote its primary author's
spectacularly failing career as a writer, we present you this week's column from the St. Clair Times. Please feel free to comment here or post your thoughts on Twitter. Thanks in advance for your feigning of interest.