Sam Cooke sang “A Change Is Gonna Come” in 1964, and the song has hit home for me in the Southwest corner here in 2013.
Change keeps coming in waves. This past week two of my closest friends left the role of the working stiff up to me.
Alan Hicks retired as Director of the Southern California Gateway for the federal government’s Maritime Administration (MARAD). He is taking his well-earned leave for October, but he left his Long Beach office and geographic bachelor pad last Friday and headed north to his real home of San Francisco.
Henry Harding stepped down yesterday from his job as Executive Director at the Lebanon Housing Authority, where he has performed fantastically for what seems like forever. His wife Brenda retired last spring, and now I’m betting the two of them will be spending a great deal more time on Center Hill Lake.
I have made a promise to myself to actually go visit Henry and Brenda in the lake digs when I’m back home in Lebanon. I’ve been working on doing that for at least 20, if not 30 years.
Alan’s shift to the North is of more immediate concern for me. He has provided my stopover rest point for 14 months. Pacific Tugboat has a facility in Long Beach. I drive up every two weeks to conduct training and safety surveys. While Alan was there, including last Tuesday, I would drive up midday, play nine holes of golf with him, and then we would go out to eat. I would crash at his apartment and do my work at Pacific Tug the next day, returning home in the afternoon. It was a nice arrangement gone away.
Now I must figure out the best means of doing my Long Beach work. I could drive up in the morning. However, that means leaving home before 5:00 a.m. No one should have to deal with both San Diego and Los Angeles commutes. Going early can improve that aspect. But if I did that, then I would be traveling about 500 miles round trip in one day, not a good thing for someone my age.
My age is driving other impending changes. I suspect I am the oldest of my friends and family who is still working full time (plus writing columns and books). I have noticed my energy level and focus are fading. I also have noticed I have lost a lot of my zeal to go out and conquer the business world. Ten or 20 years ago, I would be jumping into work feet first. Now, I think about golf, visiting friends, dinner with Maureen, or when I will get back to Lebanon before taking on a business task. I also have discovered I now think of naps as a necessity, not a pleasure.
This next weekend, we head for San Francisco to join Alan and Maren and other friends from Vanderbilt days. The “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival,” that crazy, people-packing Golden Gate Park extravaganza runs Friday through Sunday. Every one of our friends from my generation will be retired except you know who.
I will no doubt stop and consider why and wonder if it’s worth it to keep on plugging away. Even more so, I will think about how I will know when I am no longer effective. I’ll think of Mike Dixon, the gentleman farmer now with his wife Gloria in Watertown. I’ll think of Henry, sitting on his boat house, perhaps sipping lemonade with a fishing pole in the water.
They both sound pretty good.
I’ll also think of the lyrics of Sam Cooke’s song:
“…Just like that river, I’ve been running ever since…There were times when I thought I couldn’t last for long; but now I think I’m able to carry on. It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gone come, oh yes it will.”
This has been a year of major change in our family’s lives. The distances from the Southwest corner seem longer, harder to travel. Vermont where my brother lives; back home; even Austin where my children and grandchildren reside and half the distance to home seem farther away.
It seems that river ole Sam sang about is the river of change and it never stops flowing.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.