I snuck away during your retirement tea this afternoon for one last look at your office. Already it was mostly empty of any trace of you, but for the umbrella on the desk.
I wonder if you did that; looked back on your way out the door. Or did you just walk, with a smile and your balloons and that silly plaque the county gave you, to do whatever it is you’ll do now that you’re not doing this anymore?
How does it feel to look back on thirty-five years, I wonder?
It goes that the best things said come last. I hope those words reached you today and that you leave knowing the respect and love we all have for you. That your example and your influence, by means of the mentoring you’ve provided for many of us professionally or personally, extended well beyond the confines of your sunny corner office.
In the span of years I’ve known you and worked for you, my perception of that office and of you has reshaped itself a number of times. I’m glad now to be far from those first nervous days when I was a trainee in your unit, seated in rows just outside your door like a schoolkid, under your watchful eye. To have come from that, to where I was invited in these last couple years with the door closed behind me, like a trusted friend, is possibly the greatest compliment you could ever pay me.
Thank you for that and for your confidence in me. Thank you for being there with Deb and Linda and Cathy M. to hold me up when my dad was dying and I didn’t know how to manage it all. Thank you for quietly letting others help me when I needed help and couldn’t get out of my own way. Thank you for encouraging my move to a promotion in social work without making me feel too guilty for leaving my *home* in Unit 425. Thank you for welcoming me into your office as a friend, even though you were my boss. Thank you for cheering me on, in this, now.
Your office is empty. I’m lingering at the door with a rush of words, too late.