When I finished the last chapter of Billy, I thought I had made it clear where I expected things to go. But I've had so many requests to finish it that I finally decided to do so. I hope this isn't a mistake and doesn't ruin the story for anyone, but I know what I intended for Stuart and Billy and this will make that clear. My appreciation for everyone who read and enjoyed Billy. I loved writing it and I'm glad so many of you enjoyed reading it. Just a note: if you haven't read Billy, this will not make much sense for you.
This is so short, I decided to chance it without LadyCibelle who is on vacation. All mistakes are mine.
I sat at the head table with several of the top executives of General Winding and Coil Inc, the parent company of True Wire and Triton as well as several others. We had finished the meal of rubber chicken, the overdone vegetables and the wilting ice cream concoction they called dessert and now it was time for the purpose of this gathering. I waited as the dishes were cleared away and coffee and tea were served. I watched as Phillip Anthony, the VP of HR rose and walked up to the podium. Finally, after a wild and often difficult journey, it was time.
Among those at this table, I was the man: the top guy, President and CEO of General Winding. I had held that position for almost ten years now, ever since Ryan Erinson had surprised me in Denver. That was the reason I found myself in Pittsburgh as the top man. And truth be told, I had enjoyed my journey but it was time for me to pass the baton as they say. I was trying to listen to the parade of well wishers making speech after speech about how much they were going to miss me when I officially retired. I listened with what I hoped appeared to be rapt attention, smiling and nodding as if I actually heard the words they were saying. I knew it was all for my benefit and I appreciated it but I was tired, and I was ready to let it all go.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I stood amid great applause and walked over to the podium to take my turn at trying to express feelings that were so intense I doubted I could ever find the right words. I looked over the large group seated around tables in the huge ballroom and tried to pick out faces in that crowd. I saw Mark Fletcher and his wife Sherri; Paula, now retired and married to Wallace Grumman; Ryan Erinson who found time to come tonight to my eternal gratitude, Will Haley and his brand new wife Penny; and my own daughter Penny and her husband Luke, in from Germany to wish me well. I gave each a smile and a nod to let them know they were appreciated. Only one face was missing. My wife wasn't here and I missed her.
I waited until the applause had run its course then began my prepared statements. I talked about the company, how much I enjoyed working there, the many people I had met and found to be friends, the times we shared, some good and a few bad. General words that could never express what this company had meant to me. But I tried, and they seemed to understand the sentiment behind the words so it was all right. I looked at the faces that meant so much to me and to others who I never had time to meet but who still felt that they knew me and were here to wish me well. I tried to make eye contact with everyone. As I finished my prepared statements, I put down my notes, took off my glasses and looked out at this crowd who wanted to say goodbye. I had a few personal thoughts I wanted to express. I had to wait until the lump in my throat became small enough to let me go on. I looked out over that silent crowd, faces turned toward me, waiting.
"I want to say to you now, that this company, and the people who I have had the great privilege of working with and coming to know have been my family for the past ten years. I want to say a personal thanks to Ryan, and to Paula, to Mark and Will and so many others who have helped me along the way. Some have taught me lessons in business that helped me become successful for which I am grateful. Others taught me humility and compassion and for those gifts I say a special thank you. I will never forget any of you and all you have meant to me. To all of you, I say good night and good bye."
I walked back to my seat amid thunderous applause and slaps on the back from those seated around me. I was humbled once again by the outpouring of emotion from my audience. I didn't know whether I deserved it but I hoped it meant that they had approved of my tenure. I stood once again and waved my thanks and tried to get them to quiet. It took several minutes and I stood there, tears beginning to blur the crowd until one by one, they began to sit. There were one or two more speeches and then it was over.
I spent the next hour talking to people as they came up to wish me well and to say their personal goodbyes. I was proud of the fact that I could greet almost all of them by name and most of their spouses. I had tried to be a leader with humanity and compassion and I think I succeeded. I know I had help along the way. I spent some time with Paula and Wallace who she met at a party I gave when I first started back in Pittsburgh. Will Haley met his wife Penny at the same party. Penny was a personal friend of Billy. She was now also my good friend. Ryan said his peace but left early to fly back to Denver. Mark and Sherri stopped and I got a big hug from Sherri. She whispered a thank you in my ear and I winked conspiratorially at her, making Mark blink in surprise. I don't think he ever knew of that day Sherri came to see me.
My daughter Penny came back to see me to ask me when I was leaving. She and Luke were catching a late flight back to Germany and she wanted some time before they had to leave. I told her I was ready and we left together, waving at people as I did. I almost hated to go, since it was probably the last time I would see most of them. But it was time. And I was tired.
We drove back to my place, the house I bought when I moved back to Pittsburgh, the house that Billy helped me pick out. The house where Paula and Billy hosted the first party I gave and the one that meant so much to me and so many others. I loved that place and would never consider moving from there, even now with retirement meaning I was free to travel and do whatever I wanted. It was way too big now but I did love the place and the many memories it held.
I spent the next hour with Penny and Luke and we talked about my grandchildren and made plans for me to visit with them during the holidays. We said our goodbyes, then I walked with them out to the front door to wait for the limo that I had hired to take them to the airport. I hated to see them go but Luke had to get back to work as did Penny so I let them go reluctantly. I watched the limo until it disappeared around the bend leaving my neighborhood and some good memories behind. I stood there, looking around at my neighbors and their perfect yards. Actually, most of those yards were made perfect by gardeners or landscape people, who did all the actual work. With a feeling of some pride, I knew that my yard was made perfect by the loving hands of my wife.
I went back inside to work some more on packing up all my files and work related papers. I had many that I had accumulated over the years that I was President. While I did little real work, I did have to read hundreds of reports that told me the company was doing pretty good. Most of those reports were confidential and had to be checked into the company vaults. Since I was one of the few authorized to enter that lair, I was responsible to make sure they were checked in properly.
I finished what I could, made myself a snack from frozen pizza and cold beer and took it outside to my chair looking over the pool. I sat back, kicked off my shoes and sighed the sigh of the contented. Life was good. Life had been good to me and it continued right up to tonight. It had been good seeing all my friends, my daughter and her husband and those that had retired before me. Life was really just a series of friends, made and lost along the way. In my case, I had not lost many, for which I offered up a prayer of thanks.