Hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since my father died. Many things have since happened that I wish he could have shared, and one such significant moment occurs a week from today.
First, some background.
Back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, commonly referred to as The Day, my transition from kid to adult was often a rocky ride for Vaughn Kaley and me. (Well, I thought it was OK, but he seemed to have a problem with it!)
I took all that individualism and idealism and “angry young man” stuff pretty seriously, and it seemed like virtually everything I thought, said or did would make my dad wonder if his real oldest son had been stolen by aliens sometime after high school graduation.
Take, for instance, my performance in the area of steady employment.
Between the ages of 18 and 26, if I wasn’t causing him to pop a vein by dropping in and out of college almost on whim, I was driving Pop bonkers by holding a series of, uh, diverse jobs.
Few of these ventures into the working world lasted more than a few months; a couple only survived days, and one horrific experience — a job working in the “slip room” of a pottery — was over by dinner break on the first day!
It wasn’t that I wouldn’t work. Let the record show: I had a lot of different jobs during that time.
But the key word is “lot.” I went through jobs the way some women shop for shoes, sorting around through dozens of pairs but never quite finding the ones that perfectly match their ensemble.
My theory was: I’m not looking for a career, I’m just making a few bucks to pay bills, eat, buy gas, have a good time and find myself. Work was an annoyance I put up with as a means to pursue the more important things in life.
Needless to say, that particular motivation led to some interesting discussions between Pop and me. Seems at that point in both of our lives, we had differing views on the “more important things in life.”
Most of these chats would begin with mutual umbrage, delivered in fluctuating levels of volume and varying degrees of angst. They would inevitably end with dad throwing up his hands, giving me a look of frustrated bewilderment and intoning the phrase: “Aren’t you EVER going to hold on to a job?!”
Then something happened that created a great change for me, for my father, for our relationship and for human history as we know it. On July 21, 1977, I walked into the Daily News building in Robinson, Illinois, put my name on a time card, sat down at a desk that was designated for the “Sports Editor” and became a journalist.
The venue has changed (four times, in fact) and the title’s not the same, but for 36 years, I’ve held a job in the newspaper dodge.
Imagine my father’s surprise. Imagine my surprise!
John Lennon wrote the marvelous line: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” When I first walked into that newspaper office in Illinois, I was already making plans about what I’d do once I got out of the newspaper business. Thirty-six years later, I continue to think about doing other things, but I’m still signing a time card at a newspaper.
Funny how things work out. Even though I wasn’t really looking for it, I discovered what I was supposed to do. And over the years, Pop let me know many times how pleased he was about that discovery.
As I began to experience the satisfaction that comes with being productive, my father’s fears for my future faded and he could feel he’d accomplished a parental responsibility — one that was very personal for him.
See, Pop knew what it was like to search for your place in The Grand Scheme. As a young man, my father had shuffled through several jobs. He wasn’t the vagabond I’d been, but he had struggled to find where he belonged in the working world. He was in his early 30s when he got into the banking business and a “job” turned into an avocation.
Back in The Day, every time he looked at me and said, “Aren’t you EVER going to hold on to a job?”, he was seeing himself. He growled because he wanted things to be easier and more stable for me.
Thirty-six years later, I see where he was coming from. Thanks, Pop.
580-255-5354, Ext. 172. Kaley is managing editor of Waurika News-Democrat