Retirement is looming…not for me but for my mentor/coach/BFF at work. C’s last day in the office is February 8 and I am already dreading the time when she won’t be there. When I started 20+ years ago and had completed 4 weeks of training, C became my supervisor. She was my coach and went along when I went out to do my first field work and continued to review my work over the next couple of years. I learned so much from her, and until very recently, still had copies of the notes she provided during that first year. I used these not only to refresh my own knowledge, but as examples for writing similar notes to my own staff.
Over the years, as I moved from her group to others we continued to talk almost daily. She was my advisor, my life coach and my friend. She cheered me on as I continued my education and on the day the results of my final exam were released mid-afternoon, C told my current supervisor to send me home as I was too excited to work and was literally bouncing off the walls (yes, I passed). The two of them even bought me flowers to celebrate.
In the early years, we went to a nearby restaurant for coffee together on a daily basis, along with a larger group. I recall the group sitting in stunned silence on September 11, 2001 watching the planes fly in the World Trade Centre in New York on the television at the restaurant. When we eventually returned to work, after an extended coffee break, very little was accomplished.
Later on, C took on a job in corporate support and moved to another building. Soon after, I went to another area as well. We kept in touch by e-mail and I still bounced ideas off her. When we returned to the same location, C encouraged me to advance my career, and provided invaluable advice and support. When I was successful in the competition to become a supervisor myself, I was frankly stunned. I’d applied as a way of letting management know I was serious about that career path but never dreamed I’d get the opportunity that soon. My first reaction was to run to C and say “what the h*ll do I do now?”
As she has been throughout my career, she was there for me, coaching, guiding and encouraging me. C has a way of leading you, so that when you ask a question you end up answering it for yourself. It is a method I’ve never mastered. Shortly thereafter, C became my manager for an interim period and the informal coaching became formal for that time. By the time I’d been in my position for a year or so, my confidence level had increased and I no longer felt as though I was in over my head.
Outside of work, C and her husband N, have become good friends as well. Back in 2003 when both my parents were ill and I had to dash off to care for them unexpectedly, they went to my home daily and cared for the cats. (C is also a cat lover – at that time they had three tuxedos, all have since run to the Bridge but I suspect there will be another cat in their lives soon). They also invited me to their annual New Year’s Eve part (and N’s birthday), and with one exception, I’ve been at their gala every year for nearly 15 years.
For about 5 years, I’ve been joining their ‘crew’ for Friday night dinners. These started about 20 years ago with C, N and another friend Cu. Over time they added to the crew, most were met through N’s volunteer work with Air Cadets. C and N met in pilot training, C has since let her private licence lapse, while N is now on crew with WestJet. They love to travel too and someday I hope to join them at their timeshare in San Diego. They go every fall for the annual airshow – which is spectacular.
I truly will miss our almost daily conversations and the ability to send her a quick e-mail saying, AARRRGGGH, and knowing I need say nothing more, she just gets it. We’ll continue to see each other on Friday evenings and I’m sure we’ll make time for lunch and/or coffees at least every month or so. I know she’s looking forward to leaving work, to spending more time travelling, and when the weather gets nice in her yard and garden (it’s absolutely gorgeous in the summer, full of perennial beds and 60 or more containers… and that’s just the back yard).
I know I’ll learn to manage without her at the office…but she will be missed!
Have a great week everyone!