He can't hear very well anymore.
His gait is unstable.
The athletic frame that once supported a pretty darn good three sport athlete is gnarled and fragile.
Time overtakes us all, but the lesson he shared with me is timeless. Evergreen. It will never fade, never diminish, never weaken.
Here's the story.
I first had this discussion with him late in his career. He was near retirement, although he really didn't retire, he just kind of quit working sometime in his late seventies. The man loved to put his head down and work.
He didn't reflect on his career often.
As many of you know, representatives from his generation don't talk too much about themselves. They tend to talk about the virtues of other people they admire; or the respect they have for our country; or the responsibility each of us should have to do the right thing.
When these people talk, you listen.
Regarding his career, I came onto the scene late, so I had heard bits and pieces of how it all started. I knew that he didn't pursue his job, it just kind of fell into his lap. But I knew that once he got it, he never looked back. Never wavered.
What he told me that day was why he took the job and why he stuck with it so long.
As many job opportunities go, this one came about through a friend of a friend. My old storyteller, a bit younger at this point, took extra work to make ends meet with three young kids. Today, we call it a side hustle.
The side hustle was a basic bookkeeping job for an accountant friend. The accountant friend, building a new practice, had just agreed to absorb the business of another CPA who recently passed away. The CPA's widow suggested hiring my old storyteller so the clients wouldn't be neglected.
He took the job . . . and here's why.
He took it because he wanted to serve. He wanted to help his accountant friend, the widow, the CPA that passed away, and the CPA's clients.
Noble, I thought, but so what?
As I mentioned, I entered the story late, so I knew that he never left that job. But I wanted him to fill in the gaps. Why did he decide to stay put? Why did he not keep climbing his career trajectory? How could this not lead to the next rung on the professional ladder?
Then he shared his definition of success.
His accountant friend became his best friend. They retired just a short time apart from each other, despite a significant age difference. I think that is why the storyteller hung on to the job so late into his seventies--he didn't want to leave his friend.
He loved the relationships he developed with the CPA's clients. He served most of them until they died or he quit working. Many of his stories revolved around funny or poignant experiences with them over the years.
The widow never forgot the commitment and service of my storyteller. She loved him until she passed away years later.
A life lived in the service of others. As I age myself, I am starting to think that the old storyteller might be onto something. Maybe this is the true definition of success.
The old storyteller turns 86 today. Happy Birthday, Dad! You have served others, your country, and your family well!