In 1993, IBM was falling apart. Sales were down and they were starting to re-access their “no-layoffs” policy. People were leaving and I realized that my job was in jeopardy. I had 27 years with the company which put me just over the line to something they called “bridge to retirement”. Retirement for IBM was 30 years of employment. You had to have 27 years in order to bridge. Bridging meant that they would give you a years salary and then when you hit 30 years, you could retire just like you had actually worked those last three years.
It seemed like I had no choice. I couldn’t take a chance on being laid-off which IBM was doing a lot of in those days. I was eligible for the bridge and so, reluctantly, I retired from IBM. But, here I am, I’m 52 years old. That’s pretty young to retire. We had a years pay in the bank, so I felt like we could afford to train into something new. I decided to try to fulfill a life-long dream of mine to be a teacher. I had always wanted to be a teacher. Thought I would be a good one. I loved math and I thought I could teach it to high school kids. So, I enrolled at Winona State and started taking classes.
I’m not sure Karen ever really approved of this move. Unfortunately, we weren’t talking much in those days and I don’t know what she would have rather me do, but I did go to school for a year. The problem was, the money only lasted for a year. I didn’t work during that year, so no new money was coming in. As the year got closer and closer to an end and I realized I needed at least another year to finish my degree, I realized we were in trouble. I loved going to school. I loved learning math and I really wanted to finish, but there was no way to do that and put food on the table. So after one year at Winona State, I dropped out.
The next few months were some of the most difficult of my life. Maybe of Karen’s, too. Like I said, we weren’t talking much. I joined a temp agency and spent the most horrible three nights of my life stocking food at the local Barlow’s grocery store. I drove taxi for 10 days. In that 10 day period, I earned a grand total of $120. That’s $12 a night for a 10 hour shift. Obviously, I had to do better than that.
Then, my salvation came. I got a call from a contractor company that provided a help desk for IBM. They needed people who knew IBM products and could talk to users about the computers and the software that runs them. So, I went back to work at IBM, this time as a contractor.
I asked Karen for things she remembered about me and Katy and me and Kristy. Here is a story about Kate. I’m not sure, but I think it was her 13th birthday. (turns out it was her 15th birthday – see Katy’s comment) She had a friend in the ward that she hung out with, so on my way home from work, I stopped and picked up the friend (Sheila Romreil). Katy was curious when I brought home her friend but she had no idea of what was coming.
About 5 or 5:30, this limo pulled up in our drive way. I told Katy, this was her ride to Young Women’s that night. She was really excited. I had hired the limo for one hour. It took her all around Rochester and stopped at the home of other friends she had and, I think, picked up some other kids. The limo gave them all a ride to Young Women’s. I think this was one of Katy’s more memorable birthday presents. I think we have pictures of it somewhere, but I haven’t seen them in a long time.
Unfortunately, I only had the limo for the trip in to Young Women’s. I still had to go pick her up since I had the car for just one hour. Still it was a great evening. Kate, if you can add anything to this story, I’d appreciate it.
OK, it’s time to embarass Matt if I can. A day I’ll never forget was the day Matt told me he was going to go on a mission. Hopefully, someday, Matt will write his own story and fill in the details, but I remember sitting in the chapel of the Rochester Ward. We were listening to a young man (don’t remember who) who had just returned from his mission. During the talk, Matt, who was sitting next to me, leaned over and told me he thought he would go on a mission. I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. I croaked out a “When?” and he said as soon as he could. What I wanted to do was jump up and cheer, but I kept my cool and we started to work on his leaving. As you all know, he spent two years in the Vancouver, British Columbia Mission. I was very proud to have a son on a mission. I was proud that he himself decided to go, because it wasn’t a sure thing.
What was amazing about the mission is he really didn’t have much money saved for it. We were always broke as a family and I worried that we wouldn’t be able to pay for it. I think it ran just over $300 a month. I would deliver a check to the bishop each month and somehow, that money got to Matt to support him. We always made that payment. I don’t think we were ever late with it. The money was always there and nothing else really suffered because of it. When he returned home, you’d think we could now have an extra $300 to pay down bills or something, but nothing really changed. We were broke before the mission, we were broke during the mission, except that we paid one extra check and we were broke after the mission. Strange isn’t it. They say the Lord provides when you have a worthy cause and I guess that is true.
Matt got back from his mission, he was much the same, but a lot different. He had turned into a man, didn’t listen to heavy metal music anymore (at least for awhile) and had a testimony of the gospel. I think (and I hope he agrees) that going on a mission was a deciding point in his life. After that he wanted to go into a field where he could help people and that is what he did. We all know where that has taken him.
I hope he knows just how proud we all are of him.
I’ve probably said most of this before, but I got a call this morning from Matt and he said he had been thinking about me and my Dad (grandpa to him) and how we were veterans. So, I’ve been thinking about that all day. I was never too close to my Dad, but I’m proud of the fact that he served in the Army during World War II. You might remember that he spent most of his tour of duty in Italy.
Italy was part of the Axis along with Germany and was definitely our enemy. My Dad spent basic training in Kansas where my mother went to visit him when I was a baby. Then he sent to Italy where he fought until he got shot in the leg by an Italian bullet. Wounded, the war was over for him and after a time in the hospital, he came home. He received a Purple Heart for that bullet.
Unfortunately, when he got home he had decide that he didn’t want to be married anymore. The war had done something to him to make him want to be on his own. So he left and my mother raised me by herself. At least for awhile.
I am technically a veteran, even though I never fought in a war. I was enlisted in the Air Force during a time that is officially considered part of the Vietnam War. Today, I’m considered a veteran for things like VA loans (if I wanted one).
A few weeks ago, I went to a concert at the Church Conference Center. They had patriotic portion of the presentation and they asked everyone in the audience who where in the various services to stand while they played the theme song of that service. When they announced everyone who was in the Air Force, I stood with about 50 other guys while they played “Wild Blue Yonder” which is the Air Force’s theme song. I was really proud to have served my country. I never fired a gun (except on a rifle range), but I did contribute something to the country by my efforts and I’m proud of that.
I really enjoyed the four years I spent in the service. I gave a lot of thought to re-enlisting, but knew that a career in the service wasn’t really in my future.
One of the highlights of my life in the eighties (and, I think, the rest of the family) was getting cable in Eyota. This was the early eighties and we heard a rumor that cable was coming to Eyota. Boy, were we excited. I determined that the minute they hooked it up in town, we were going to sign up. There was no question about that. I expecially wanted to see MTV. MTV was great in those days. They actually played music, not like today. I was a little disappointed when the cable was first turned on and MTV was not a part of the lineup right away.
We had to wait a couple weeks for the cable company to get that channel programmed. But eventually it came on. I’m pretty sure Karen was not as excited as I was, but I’ve always been a TV watcher and being a music fan, MTV was just about the best that life had to offer. Later, of course, when Mike and I became friends, we spent many a weekend sitting in the basement watching the videos on MTV. Those are still some of my happiest days I can remember.
Another memory I have of Eyota was the picnics we would sometimes have at IBM park. IBM had this area that was just called “the park” and it has picnic tables and places to run around. Every summer, IBM would put on a party for the employees. They would usually have a band come in and play. We could eat and go around and play the games that they set up. It was really cool.
Some of the great times were when Karen would bring the kids into town right after I got off work. I would drive over to the park and meet them at a particular time. We would eat supper on one of the picnic tables and the kids would run around and have fun in the play area. Those were good times.