SCOT BELLAVIA: I Got a New Job, Part 2

In my previous article, I didn’t give the seniors quite a fair shake. I read into their bittersweet well-wishes and drew something out of it that they didn’t realize they were propagating – that I had been reluctantly clocking hours at an occupational purgatory and was finally moving on to a job that promised no mourning nor crying nor pain

I stand by the thesis of the last piece: that jobs aren’t stepping stones to an ultimate; they’re instead places where we can grace others with our presence if we aren’t darkening the doors. Still, the goodbyes I received from my last job were heartfelt, especially on the final day.

I don’t know if it’s the right side of my brain finding poetry in the mundane that makes me think the final day was so perfect, or maybe it was so perfect. Either way, here’s what happened that’ll make that backyard party a lasting memory.

My final ping pong game I played with two regulars and a first timer. It seemed so fitting that a newcomer was there for me to pass the baton – er, the paddle – to. That final game went to deuce, as does any ping pong game worth playing or watching. I won it, but I’m convinced one of the opposition deliberately capitulated. Yet, it was appropriate that he allowed me to win, not so I could go out on a high note but so I’d remember him for the type of man he is.

Another table tennis fellow, a cigar-smoking 84-year-old who spent most of his working years putting out literal fires in DC, sent me off with a firm handshake and, until that point, a sentence I would have thought out of character but in hearing it, I finally knew him. He said, “I love you, whether you like it or not.”

In fact, a lot of overt spiritual sentiments were emoted that day. Whether verbal or written, their deep statements would have caused ire in the strictest separation-of-church-and-state proponent but the familiarity between all of us waived off any concerns that religion was technically endorsed in that government building.

The major event of the day was the going-away party my boss threw. She had invited the most loyal of seniors, ones I had really gotten close to.

My wife brought our 14-month-old who was the life of the party, his toddler antics not annoying but adored. We sat around and made small talk in between bites of carrot cake and sips of lime punch. My boss’ husband threatened to cheer, “Speech! Speech!” Fortunately, no such thing happened and I was permitted to simply enjoy the conversations and wrangle my son.

It felt like a retirement party, and even more like a wedding reception for it wouldn’t have been far off to assume they were going to form a tunnel and throw rice as I made my final exit.

At one point, my boss was busy with food orders and general hospitality, so during my last hour on the clock, I answered two phone calls. Wading through the party, I repeatedly heard the joke that “they were still making me work.” I was glad I answered though because the calls were satisfying cherries on top.

My second to last phone call was from someone who recently moved to town and had questions about the Center. Like the first-time ping pong player, this represented a circle-of-life moment; my exit another’s beginning.

The second and my last phone call, which my wife sappily gloats at having been there to hear my standard phone greeting’s swan song, was with a senior I remember meeting when I first started. She expressed her apologies at having missed my bon voyage party and wished me well.

And with that, I burned no bridges, was begged to promise frequent return visits, and moved on to the next chapter of my life, as they say.

– Scot Bellavia

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