Let me say, right off: no one has died! The title of this blog, Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant, is often quoted at funerals as a comfort to mourners, implying that their beloved departed is ALIVE and receiving his just reward from Jesus. Yet in the actual Gospel parable (Matthew 25:23), Jesus makes no reference to death at all, just the completion of a job. You might even say, it was RETIREMENT time for the three servants!
Today I want to tell you about a “faithful servant.”
Fifty-three years ago, a tall, skinny (relatively speaking), and – to one certain young lady – very cute young man graduated from Portland University, packed his bags, and headed for his first “real job” in Pasadena California.
(A little aside here: this young lady FULLY expected to receive an engagement ring before Tom’s departure; but all that was on Tom’s mind was FREEDOM! Finally, he would be on his own in the marvelous world of bi-weekly paychecks! It took Tom two years before he realized something was missing in his life….)
Tom’s first “real job” was with the Navy. Not on a submarine – though he did get to take a ride on one as part of his job. He worked for the Naval Ordinance Test Station, helping to design parachutes for bombs! Heat seeking missiles that would blow enemy submarines out of the water. What more FUN job could there be for a young (male) engineer!
The 60’s were tense years and building the best bomb and the best delivery system were top priorities for the government. Not so much, though, for the protesters of the time! NOTS (the Naval Ordinance Test Station) was often picketed and the target of threatened violence. This didn’t seem to bother Tom. He was young then and therefore immortal.
Life was good! In 1966 he took his bride (the young lady from two years before) to live in Pasadena, and at first all was wonderful. “Baby made three” nine months later, though, and the thought of living so far from family and friends, along with several smoggy summers, made Tom begin to hanker for Oregon. That, and my nagging….
But first things first: to advance in his career as an electrical engineer, Tom needed a Master’s Degree. A long dreary stretch of full-time work and part-time grad school, balanced with becoming a husband and father in the space of a year, made those years a much different experience than the one Tom had envisioned the day he left Oregon and headed south. But he never complained – I can testify to that since I was too busy complaining for him to get a word in edge-wise! I wanted out of the smog, for my baby’s sake, and I wanted my husband’s attention! Instead, I was home alone a lot, taking care of Lisa – and typing Tom’s graduate thesis!
(Another aside: when I began typing Tom’s thesis, I did not know how to type. After that 50,000 word labor of love — for it was just that — I was pretty proficient! I have often thought of that “hidden blessing” as I spend so much time at a keyboard!)
But the day finally came. Tom held his diploma in his hands – and eventually the “ticket” North! The story of how the parachute designer for the Navy became a “meter-man” for Bonneville Power Association is too long to share here – maybe Tom will write it. Hey, he WILL have time now…. For today, January 6, 2017, is Tom’s last day at BPA.
[We joked that Tom was a “meter-man” – what he really did is design meters that helped BPA charge customers what they owed. What a comedown from designing parachutes for bombs! Or not…]
Think of it: he has worked for da-man — i.e. the government — for 53 years! Four years with the navy, 39 years at BPA, and 11 years at BPA, as a contractor (he “retired” eleven years ago on a Friday and then came back to work the next Monday, to the same desk, the same job – just a different signature on his paycheck!). Amazing! And if that were the entire story, Tom would maybe deserve a pat on the back, but not a commendation from DA-MAN, Himself.
I will serve as “first witness” for this commendation from Heaven – and Lisa, Rebecca, and Christina, I am sure, will back me up. For 53 years, Tom’s paycheck has supported the three of us with a (very nice) home and LOTS (as in too much) food, and closets FULL of feminity (while his closet has more dust in it than clothes). And without complaints! I cannot remember, in our 50+ years together, a single question — even a creased brow — about how we girls “spent his hard earned money.” He paid the checks for all of the above, and much, much more: tuition to private schools, piano lessons, guitar lessons, harp lessons, saxophone lessons, etc. etc. etc.
And the last seven years, he has turned a blind eye to my lavish – ok, wanton – spending on our darling Lydia! Ok. Here he sometimes pretends to complain, but I know that behind that bluster is an equal, if not greater, desire to delight our beloved granddaughter, every chance he can get. He just likes to blame it on “Grandma.”
So what am I saying here? Tom has gotten up at 5:30am and headed off to work by 7am, to face a commute that has grown from 30 minutes to over an hour! For more years than I can figure, he ended his work day with stints as chauffeur for the girls — picking them up at school, taking them to music lessons — only to come home for a quick nap before chaotic evenings with four women. And a few of those years he survived two daughters in puberty, one mouthy toddler who sometimes acted like she was in puberty, and a wife going through peri-menopause. For that alone he deserves a medal! Add to that list the years he suffered through a wife in grad school and student teaching and make that a Purple Heart! (For injuries his body suffered eating nightly TV dinners!)
Through all this (and there is SO MUCH MORE I won’t share…do you hear the three daughters cheering?) Tom has grown before our eyes from an already kind, generous, loving, godly person, to a GROWING-IN-GRACE Christian (in every sense of the word) Catholic. He is the very model of the title of this website!
I could say much more! I could list the awards Tom has earned at BPA (in the years BPA gave out awards…); and I could share another 1000 words about how he has supported me through this cancer adventure; and I could… well you get the point. Maybe I will end this with what one of the BPA secretaries said to me eleven years ago, when Tom “retired” the first time: “I don’t know what we will do without Tom. Every day, he brings humor (the good kind) to the office. He made it worthwhile to come to work.” From secretaries THAT is commendation!
I won’t end with that. I will have the last word (as is usual, Tom would tell you):
THANK YOU, Tom, my husband for 50+ years, father to our three beautiful daughters, and my forever-best friend. For being there. Always.