Larry and the Life-Size Cardboard Larry

My father-in-law, the incomparable Lawrence, is finally unemployed. He is officially retired from the bank where he worked for 20 years, and can spend his days reading historical novels, walking his dog, and playing golf. You know, dad stuff. He’s been talking about retiring for years, and now it’s happening. It’s bittersweet for him.

Longtime readers of the blog will recognize my father-in-law as a colorful recurring character who thinks I should write more content about him. Ok, here we go…

Lawrence is the son of a career navy man, and he moved a lot as a kid. He’s one of six children, and there are two things I know he’s really good at—working with money and growing a mustache. For that reason, he worked in banking for like forty years and at his most recent job for twenty. All the while he raised two sons and three dogs, grew a garden, then a bigger garden, then became the grandfather to what are now five very blonde grandchildren. He’s well-read, well-traveled (but mostly to and from Disney World), and has been married to the same woman for like forty years. So yeah, a guy who could write his own blog if he felt like it. Maybe now he will—the world is his oyster.

His coworkers threw him a retirement party; I don’t know much about parties because I like to be in bed by 8:30, but it was pretty great. There were free drinks and little mushroom tart things, there was a mashed potato bar, there were little cream puffs for dessert, and more than one Life-size cardboard cutout of my father-in-law. Yeah, more than one. There were nearly a hundred guests in a historical house on the north shore, and after all the eating, there were speeches.

He had been talking about his party for a long time, and about the fact that he was going to ‘make remarks’. He’s a witty guy, but you sometimes have to deal with his jokes…for instance, he has been saying for years that I did a certain thing that I have never ever done, and I have a rebuttal ready every year for when he brings it up. I was ready for him to roast everybody. They’d already made some funny videos about him and how much they’d miss him, full of banking jokes (my sister-in-law and I just laughed when everybody else did). Then he got up in front of everyone while I whispered, “twenty bucks says he cries.”

He cried at both his sons’ rehearsal dinners, he cried when the kids were baptized, he cried when the dog died (although we all took that hard). I was sure he’d cry.

He didn’t cry—he listed off the names of people he was grateful to, and he thanked everyone, and then he hugged everybody and took home a bunch of gifts.

The next day, I said, “Lawrence, now that you’re retired—,” and he visibly jumped. Now he was retired. He’d done it.

I haven’t known Lawrence as long as the bank has, but I’ve known him for 13 years. One thing I always noticed about my father-in-law was the fact that he’s ALWAYS working. On his garden, on his house, on his golf game. He reads book after book, he can discuss topics all over the map. He’s embraced helping with his grandchildren—rocking infants, taking toddlers outside to pick berries, teaching four-year-olds to play golf. And even when he couldn’t physically work on something, because, say, Thomas and I were having a problem 1500 miles away from him, or it wasn’t a problem within his jurisdiction, he was always trying to fix it. Career advice, house-hunting advice, parenting advice—he’s given us plenty, and it’s turned out pretty well.

So yes, I’m really glad he’s retired, but he isn’t going to quit working, not even close—that’s the joke his brother made at the party: now he’s the bus driver for the grandkids. But I’m writing this to congratulate him because it’s so rare in life you get to see someone achieve a long-held dream. He’s been working really hard at the bank for twenty years, and then he was done, right when he’d always planned to be done. And from everything his coworkers said, it was a “well done, good and faithful servant” situation. They kept using the word ‘integrity’, and if you’ve worked with someone for 20 years, and integrity means ‘choosing the good at all times’, that’s a pretty big endorsement.

His first week off work was the first week of spring. I think that has good portents.

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