This past weekend, I went home to celebrate my father’s retirement from the FBI. “How many years?” I asked, not wanting to do the math on my own. Thirty-four. I let out a breath and shook my head in admiration, thinking of the long hours and hard work I had witnessed over the years. Washington, Mississippi, New York, Washington, here. I again sat there, taking in the moves from major city to major city, grateful that we had settled in Pittsburgh while I was still a baby. I hadn’t asked anymore questions, just sat there and pondered all the things he had seen and experienced.
He came back an hour or so later, presumably after an intense game of pool with my brother and announced that he was going to bed. Before he left I asked if he had any words of wisdom for me—as I was secretly typing this column. “Life is tough and then you die.” My mom rolled her eyes from across the room.
“That pretty much sums it up.”
I read my mother’s lips, “don’t write that!” I shrugged. As he left the room headed for slumber, I couldn’t help but think about his life’s work. He majored in chemistry at Clarion University and was at a bar with a friend after graduation when his friend handed him an application for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He took it and never looked back.
All afternoon at the retirement party I had been engaging in small talk with relatives and neighbors and co-workers of my fathers who had known me since I was “this tall.” I went through the same routine with everybody. Yes, I still love Westminster. No, I’m actually a communications studies major with writing and marketing minors. Of course, everything is going great. One topic that has seemed to have growing prevalence in my life, however, is what I want to do in the future.
There was a time that I would confidently answer that question. I want to be a writer. I want to be a motivational speaker. I want to work at a non-profit. I want to be an entrepreneur. While all that is true, I can’t help but wonder if some turn of events could change all of it. The truth is, I’m not really sure what I want to do with my life. Yes, I want to write, motivate, help, and create but I also want to live, dream, love, and explore.
I guess more than any of that though, I want to say the words my dad used to fill the silence that had fallen over the room after we had calculated his years as an agent. I hadn’t asked anymore questions but he still had one more answer, “It was a good ride—a long ride, but a good ride.” Because at the end of an era, no matter what your degree or resume says, if you can smile and call it a “good ride,” you’ve already succeeded beyond measure. And that is something worth celebrating.