Once I married and moved away, I lost touch with the day-to-day life at home. I wasn’t there when Dad lost faith in his company and his work. He never spoke of an interest to rise to upper management or never had the ambition to pursue it. Several of his contemporaries became senior managers, one even becoming president of the company. Young engineers straight from college were hired with salaries comparable to his with thirty years of experience. Perhaps Dad did not upgrade his skills to use new technology and found himself left behind.
The company faced tough times in the late seventies. Nuclear energy was the future of the company, until the moratorium on nuclear power plants. Oil embargoes also derailed contracts to build new electrical generation plants.
He suffered from ulcers for years. Mom often found him pacing the living room in the mornings while waiting for his ride with a neighbor into Boston. At the time, I was also experiencing professional indecision and depression, and recognized his symptoms. But since he had ulcers, I assumed this was the primary cause.
At work, he was reassigned as Manager of Administration. I remember him saying one evening, “Can you believe I spent the afternoon checking every emergency exit on each floor of the building? Effective use of my time.” His stomach trouble became worse, and he missed work several days at a time. During Dad’s tests, the doctor found the H. pylori virus, an unsuspected cause of ulcers. He also discovered a cancerous tumor in his digestive tract and a surgeon removed a significant section of his colon.
He became depressed and his tension, anxiety, and disappointment aggravated his physical complaints. Absent from work for longer and longer stretches of time, the doctor finally wrote a letter and S&W granted him early retirement and his pension in 1980.
He never talked about the end of his career, but I suspect he believed he’d not lived up to his potential or failed in some way. His company pension, social security, and the stock Mom inherited from Grandma provided a comfortable retirement.
Over the years, he lost interest in his hobbies. He filled his days with reading, watching TV, visiting family and a few friends, and eating in restaurants with Mom several times a week. When she entered the nursing home, Dad’s activities were confined to his apartment in the morning and visiting her every afternoon.
I was too busy with my own problems to take much notice.
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