They don’t give out gold watches when you retire anymore.
But if anyone deserves one, it’s my father.
After coming to this country on a “scholarship” from a family member who believed he had what it took to be successful, he has spent the last 40+ years proving his uncle right.
He worked harder than any of us to earn his degree because, not only was it in the challenging field of Mechanical Engineering, but it wasn’t in his native language — Bahasa Indonesia. Over the ensuing decades following graduation, he spent his career displaying loyalty to his employers, dependability to his colleagues, and selflessness to his family.
Growing up, dinner was always at 5:00pm sharp — and I thought that was normal. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that most Americans don’t eat until 6, 7 or 8 every night and many aren’t able to eat together as a family. We ate dinner at 5, the four of us, each taking turns praying aloud first, every day. This isn’t a joke, or a movie, or a postcard. It really happened. It was made possible by a father who made the choice to wake up early every day, to be at work by 7:30, so he could be home by 4:30, so he could spend that extra hour (or more) with his two sons and wife every day from the time I was born until I left home in 2007.
By any approximation, that’s well over 8,000 extra hours spent together as a family.
From passing over numerous promotions in exchange for modest raises, to struggling through brutal layoffs, everything my father did in his career was for my brother and I. Together with my mother, both of my parents worked to give us lives better than the two of them had growing up. Without recounting the details of every family vacation and extracurricular activity that my brother and I took part in, I’ll tell you simply that they succeeded in their goal.
Success, as we all know, comes in many different forms and can look very different to each person. Some say it’s the journey; some say it’s the event.
The story of my father’s career and retirement is not about earning a big enough stack of paychecks to stop working — it is about a man who spent a lifetime putting his family first, now having a little extra time for himself.