Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Once in a rare while, the opportunity comes along to really surprise somebody special. Last weekend, one of those opportunities came along.
My friend “retired” from her job selling insurance for one of the rare insurance companies that isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, her immediate boss ran her out, and the corporate office let it happen. So, even though she was the region’s most successful sales agent, she retired from the job.
There is a saying that people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their bosses. This is truly what happened here. She loved what she did and was very good at it, but her boss was basically doing underhanded tricks to drive her out, and it wasn’t worth the effort to continue. So, she “retired”.
I put that in quotation marks because she didn’t really retire per se. She and her husband purchased an ice-cream truck business and has been starting that. It’s a great job for her. She’s so friendly and loves children so I know that she’ll be great, provided, of course, that she doesn’t burn herself out by working too hard. Today I had a little talk with her, as if it is my right to do so, about balance. Okay, I’m hardly an expert, and I really don’t like being one of “those” guys who insists that he always knows better, but I took license to do so out of concern for her.
That’s all background, though. The story really begins with her children who organized a surprise party to celebrate her retirement. I know most of them (probably all of them now) and am friends on social media with many of them. One of them organized an event called “SHH…it’s a secret surprise party”. These things NEVER work, but I wasn’t going to be the one to ruin it. Apparently, her youngest, three months from becoming a mother herself, had a baby shower. I thought this was the “screen” for her retirement party, but as it turns out, she actually had a baby shower a few hours before the surprise retirement party. Like I said, though, I thought it was just a distraction, so when my friend mentioned the baby shower, I just complained that I hadn’t gotten my invitation, but, of course, I acknowledged that I would attend the party on the social media announcement. I’m not sure, though, how many expected me to actually to show up.
Now, my friend, and most of her daughters, live about three and a half hours away from me. It’s quite the journey. The party was scheduled to begin at noon, and I wanted to be a little bit late. My vehicle would have been very recognizable to her, especially with my custom license plate (DQOVERT; the equation for change in entropy from classical thermodynamics). If she saw it in the driveway, she surely would have known something was up. So, I hit the road at a time that I figured would put me about thirty minutes late, but I still had to get up much earlier than usual to do so.
I pulled into the very end of the row of cars on the driveway when I arrived. My friend tells me that she was standing with one of her daughters when she saw me walking up the driveway. Apparently, she just looked at her daughter, and her daughter just said, “yep”.
I bought her what I believe was a very insightful and great present, a garden light with a dog that looks much like the one she lost some years ago that I know she still misses today. But that was just a physical affectation. The true gift was the trip. I honestly could only spend about an hour there, since I had to get back to my job at the drive-in theater, which, frankly, was kind of a gift to them.
I know my friend was deeply moved. She felt like she had been forgotten by her children a week earlier for Mother’s Day, and the surprise worked. She truly had no idea, and that her children had organized the party for her touched her deeply, as did the people who showed up for her, and I’m honored that I could be a part of it. I know, I believe, all of her children now (but not all of her grandchildren), and am friends with them on social media, or at least many of them. They’re like a surrogate family and I’m happy that they have accepted me into their fold. And I hope that my friend feels the love from this surprise for a very long time to come.