- Tom Rastrelli
Letter #10 — Leaving work behind
You hit the nail on the head and Abdel is right … it's about relationships. The way we develop and nurture them is so important. Maybe that's why solitary confinement in prisons is such a terrible thing. Being separated from other's gentle touch, kind words, encouraging support and sharing their love helps to destroy one's emotional, spiritual, physical and mental growth and development. Or when a baby needs to feel its mother's touch, breath and kisses to start a proper survival process at birth.
I remember years ago when I was running the Davenport mall restaurant and Jenny had won the Iowa Homecoming Queen completion. She won a trip to Hawaii to compete against the other 49 states to become America's Homecoming Queen. I thought it was phony operation and, in a sense, it was, but the truth also could be a growth opportunity for Jenny, Mom and me as none of us ever had been to Hawaii before. When I found out it was on the same week that Davenport celebrated the Bix Beiderbecke 7K road race, which is the largest revenue intake we have every year, I told them I couldn't go, because Mike and Jim would freak out that I wasn't working and making it happen during that time. Jill said she was buying two tickets and If I wasn't going to go, she would give it to her mom and they would go with Jenny.
All during April, May and June I stewed about my decision which was mostly based out of fear of what my brothers would say and dedication to my job. I had some customers, Bob and Rita Reimers who ate with us two to three times a week' and I had become good friends with them over the years. Bob smoked a big, fat stogie and was retired from the Rock Island Arsenal, and Rita was a graciously dressed and loving lady. He ordered me to sit down with them, exclaiming, "Come here a sit down and tell us what's bugging you!" They were very perceptive and demanded an answer as I was countering with "nothing" retorts, but I finally told them. "Jill and Jenny are going to Hawaii for a pageant she won and I have to stay home and run this place because it's Bix week, and I can't be gone on our busiest week." He looked me square in the eye and said confidently, "Are you telling me that this place is going to hell just because you aren't here and you don't have a staff that you've taught to run it in your absence, plus miss a dream week in paradise with your wife and daughter? How many chances will you ever have to do that again in life? It's time for you to start smelling the roses, young man!"
I was stunned that he had it all figured out for me, and it seemed so simple when I looked at it that way. I also realized that I was more fearful of confronting my brothers, so it was holding me back. That night when I got home from work, I told Jill that I was going and explained it to the staff, who said they could handle it fine. Then mustered up the courage to tell Jim and Mike. There were no fights and yelling. Even though they objected, I held my ground. And the ironic thing that happened on that trip was twofold. First was being so proud when Jenny was crowned the queen, but most importantly was the Saturday night mass we attended. It was outdoors on the beach with sailboats, palm trees and birds flying in the background and warm breeze brushing over our faces. The priest's homily was about relationships. How can we improve our relationships with God, our family and our friends on our journey through life? And then he used the old quote which I'd heard before but now made total sense to me. He reminded us that he had never heard a man on his deathbed say that he wished he had spent more time with his job! Wow, did that ever hit me straight though the heart like an arrow? It felt like if I had missed that trip, I wouldn't have learned that all-important lesson.
When I look back, I learned many lessons from that experience. But in the end, it all comes down to our ability to deepen and grown our relationships in the world.
So, after you and Bruce left after Thanksgiving, we had a chance to spend another week with Jeff and how special that time was. He helped us with some of our computer and remote TV questions. He helped mom put up and decorate the tree and and with other odd jobs around the house. And of course, he was around when the Hospice nurse came for her home interview, so yes, he was exposed to COVID, too. The nurse didn't know she was positive at the time. So he shared our quarantine, and after he tested negative, as we all did, was able to drive home to San Diego safely. But all in all, we had some great quality time to deepen our relationship with him more.
Yes, I am grounded because of my relationship with God and the comfort I receive form it. I realize I can't do this on my own and I need others to help get me through it. I don't think I could have gotten this far without loving God. I need my God, Mom, you, Bruce, Jeff, Maria and Gabe and the kids and prayers and good vibes from others to strengthen me and keep me positively forward thinking. I also know that by staying present to the people I'm with or speaking to them is so important, too. We already know what has happened in the past, but we can't live or linger in the past and it's over so if we need to make amends, we can do that. And we don't know what will happen in the future. And much of the future is based on fear and tends to bring on anxiety and sarcasm. But at least we can plan for it and fortify ourselves for beating those feelings when they do arise. It's the present that we have right now, and we have so many correct and positive things to do and be attentive to each person we spend time with, speak to and love.
Now is the time to squeeze as much out of life that we can, and that's the gift those of us that have been told our bodies are wearing out, and we have to be ready and spread as much love and joy we can to all we meet. Our time, peace, joy, happiness and love are the gifts we share and hopefully there will be many "golden nuggets" of wisdom and our example for others will carry forth the message in the relationships we build.
Love forever as always,
Dad, I don't have any photos of your Hawaii trip. This 2004 photo of you, Mom and I in the pottery studio at the Southdown Institute where I was receiving depression treatment after I left the priesthood is the closest I could get. We all have on Hawaiian shirts!