Sunday, May 13, 2007

First Life Tribute to My Go to Guy

I know that we all shy away from talking too much about our first lives in Second Life blogs, but I wish to digress for a moment.

I want to tell you about a magical guy that I know.

As all people do, he has some sad stories in his hope chest. He was a midlife baby to a 45 year old couple, his father was killed tragically when he was 5 because of a drunk driver (in a time when there was no justice for such things), he buried a child who drowned in a public swimming pool, and we worked a life time just to make ends meet. He was laid off in his 50, almost lost his daughter and grandson, was diagnosed with cancer, fought it, and then decided to start a whole new life 25 miles from his former home.

To some, they would collapse under a weight of sadness. But, he didn't give up. He just kept on going - taking each day at a time. Over the years, he has earned a few nicknames. All of these names are used to describe a part of a man that is somewhat quiet, hard working, loyal, smart, and kind.

He is called Big Fish because he loves to go fishing. It seems a natural sport for someone who likes the stillness of the woods. He taught all of his children to fish and to appreciate and respect nature. He strung worms, removed hooks, and dislodged odd boots from the hooks of children. He signed his cards with a big fish smoking a pipe.

He was called Rev at the Bethlehem Steel where he operated a crane high above his co-workers. Stories of his pipe lighter in the black crane filter through to this day, even though he no longer smokes it. But, you can smell the Hickory when you recall the memory. He did a lot of volunteer work for his church, and his peers at the steel called him Rev after he stored pews for the church in his attic. He worked 25 years of swing shift and worked a lot of overtime to provide for his wife and children. He worked hard, but it didn't save him when they closed the steel down. Like many of his friends, he was left to try to find a job in his 50s. In a culture driven by the culture of youth, it wasn't easy.

He found a job making fancy chairs at Vitra, Inc. (and, they are REALLY fancy chairs owned by people like Yoko Ono and the like). He took to this job the same passion, dedication, quiet determination, patience, skill, and loyalty as he had in his other jobs. He earned the nickname "Go to Guy" because he helped everyone and anyone. He always thought about solutions; he never let problems bog him down. He didn't spend useless time complaining; he troubleshooted, he acted, he fixed, and he was successful. His bosses and co-workers knew they could count on him; they went to him to help solve problems. He was their Go to Guy.

Nicknames are kind of funny. I have had quite a few in my time (some of which don't appeal to But, they all do highlight a part of who I am or who I was at a given time in life.

For this man, he has always been the Go to Guy. If someone needed help moving, he was there to help. If his children needed rides, he gave them. If his kids needed money to go to the movies, he gave it - even if it was his last 10 dollars. When his kids needed help with Algebra, he helped. If his Aunt needed her pickles opened, he drove across the city and opened them. He shoveled the snow of countless elderly women; he carried groceries for even more.

This man, Paul Ritter, Jr., has always been the Go to Guy, but, more importantly, he is my Dad.

On Friday, Dad retired from his job at Vitra. They had a wonderful party for him and gave him wise advice like "don't fall in the creek." His forewoman was upset because she was losing her "Go to Guy." It was a hard decision, but it was time.

As he approaches this sunset of his life - the close of 50 years working for the profit of others - I couldn't help but think of the song, "The Leader of the Band" by Dan Fogelberg.

An only child
Alone and wild
A cabinet makers son
His hands were meant
For different work
And his heart was known
To none --
He left his home
And went his lone
And solitary way
And he gave to me
A gift I know I never
Can repay

A quiet man of music
Denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once
But his music wouldnt wait
He earned his love
Through discipline
A thundering, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls
Took me years to understand.

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through
My instrument
And his song is in my soul --
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
Im just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.

My brothers lives were
For they heard another call
One went to chicago
And the other to st. paul
And Im in colorado
When Im not in some hotel
Living out this life Ive chose
And come to know so well.

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go --
I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And, pap, I dont think i
Said i love you near enough --

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through
My instrument
And his song is in my soul --
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
Im just a living legacy
To the leader of the band
I am the living legacy
To the leader of the band.

As my Dad moves on to this new phase of his life, I hope he will remember that his passion for doing a job well done, for being a person that helps others be successful, for taking the time to work carefully, and a person who respects and loves nature has been successfully passed down to me. The stillness of spirit and is one that we share.

Dad (I know Peg is gonna make you read this), I know I don't say it often enough, but I love you. I am very proud of the work you have done and of the daughter I have become because of your example. Thank you for being my Go to Guy for the past 34 years. Happy Retirement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth,
thanks for sharing your Dad's story. What a wonderful story!
This gave me inspiration to keep going.

I wish him happy retired life. Hope you would take care of him.