It’s the People

Earlier today I had a phone conversation with my Dad. You might recall that he’s undergoing another round of chemo for a recurrence of colon cancer. It’s been well over five years since his original diagnosis and treatment, but in the interim he had a bout of prostate cancer which was treated with radiation therapy.

Did I mention that he also has Parkinson’s disease?

And that he’s 85 years old?

As you might imagine, he’s rather frail. We’re planning a trip to Florida later this week to see him, so I inquired about his schedule in the upcoming days.

“Well, Tuesday’s and Thursdays are therapy days,” he said, rattling it off verbatim. “I get this pump thing filled up on Tuesdays, and wear it all day Wednesday, and then go back in on Thursday for some other treatment. I’m working on Friday and Sunday this week, but on Saturday I’m free all day.”

“Are you still working??” I asked, somewhat incredulously. My Dad has worked at the local Walmart for the past several years, even working full time for a while.

“Just two days a week now,” he said, “and only four hours at a time.”

“Do you really think you should do that?” I wondered, not for the first time.

“Yeah, I need to,” he said. “It keeps my mind off all this other awful stuff. Besides, I like all the people I work with, and I have my regular customers that come in and get upset if I’m not there. That’s the best part of work, the people.”

Of course he’s right. Especially for a man like my Dad, who enjoys talking to people, who ran a successful small business for 40 years, who likes to be out and about in the world.

“How about you?” he asked. “Do you miss your job?”

I thought for a minute before I answered. Fact is, I don’t miss the work itself, but I do miss the people I worked with. I enjoyed the interaction with my co-workers and my boss, enjoyed the camaraderie, the sense of shared purpose – all the things I’m enjoying so much in my Classical Bells rehearsals.

When I told him as much, he understood immediately. “It’s all about the relationships,” he said.

I can believe that. There is much satisfaction to be had in the workplace, and not all of it has to do with a job well done.

How about you. Do your working relationships help make a dull job better? 


9 thoughts on “It’s the People

  1. I think whatever we do is all about the relationships we have with folks. We spend so much of our lives at “work” and it’s always good if one has a good relationship with co-workers. In Rotary, I have wonderful relationships with lots of great folks and the thing we have in common is just doing good in our world. That is an even more satisfying relationship, knowing that we can make a difference.
    Really happy that your Dad can do what he’s doing and knowing that people are expecting to see him when they visit the store gives him a great reason to keep on keepin’ on.

  2. Absolutely! It is one of the only reasons I am able to survive at my job right now 🙂 I love that your Dad still works. If he thrives on making connections with people then I think it’s important for him to keep at it.

  3. Sorry to hear about your Dad, but he is right to do the things he loves to do and stay in touch with his people. Whether they know it or not, they are making his life more joyous in the middle of terrible disease.

  4. It IS the people. I pass by the Lotto billboard everyday and (though I don’t ever buy tickets) fantasize about what I’d do if I won. I know where I’d travel or what I’d get for me or others or do to the house. But I know someone would say “Will you quit your job?” (It’s no secret the recent management changes and my health often lead me to consider retirement.) I’m not sure what I’d say — because it’s the people I go to work for. The work — it’s OK. The management? I’m not so sure. But my other colleagues are salt of the earth and if I didn’t have them, I know I’d have to find others — and fast!

  5. My relationships with my coworkers has always been the hardest thing to let go… I think it’s great that your dad is living his life. He’s not focused on ladder climbing, just the simple act of serving others. After leaving TV, I worked at a gym… behind the counter. And for a period of time (before my ambition kicked back in) I thoroughly enjoyed the simple act of greeting and serving the needs of those who walked in and out each day. And the view of the Charleston Harbor was very nice!

  6. Hmmm…interesting poin that we work in part due to relationships. The publishing industry had me bumping into all kinds of people and particularly writers. Which was great. I still get together often with them. I’ve just opened a door in my present industry (mining consulting!) and I feel the fresh air blowing in already with tons of professionals in marketing and writing – most are long distance (nationally) but looks like we also get together on a regular basis which is excellent. And of those in my immediate office space? I have learned to listen (they’re not talkers really) and heard some amazing true stories. So yeah, this is all apropos to your father’s wisdom – it IS about relationships, whether they’re dynamic or quietly passive.
    Regards and hugs to your father.

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