Friday, December 08, 2006

The Measure of a Man

I am bursting with pride today. Literally bursting, for today marks a grand occasion. My dad, Ron Holliday, is retiring and today is his LAST DAY ON THE JOB! It is so strange and wonderful to think that dad’s career? C’est finis! From this point forward he will get to enjoy an ease and peace that he has earned in spades.

But what a career it has been! As a dementia-stricken Mom Jo said in the letter she wrote to the telephone company when she was requesting that her service be disconnected, “…and don’t try and find me. My son-in-law is very powerful.” (I’d give ANYTHING to know what “crazy” file that letter ended up in.)

But as my good friend Plato said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power”, and it seems to me that Dad strove to use his power for good. Through his efforts he preserved natural sanctuaries. He saved beautiful land for future generations to enjoy. He built the infrastructures that allow people to be a part of nature – to hike, float rivers, water ski, camp and all of that fun stuff that puts us in touch with the land. He restored historic places and cultural sites. Through it all he saw and experienced some of the most beautiful places on the planet. He became a master politician, managed huge budgets and was a great leader.

But all of these lofty accomplishments came through the toil, sweat and stress of doing battle as an administrator. Taking the beatings. Doling out the punishments. Defending the troops. Challenging the bullies. Managing the relentless grind. Reasoning with the unreasonable. The really, really hard stuff that can take its toll.

Being the State Parks Directors for Montana, Colorado and Texas certainly made dad unique among his peers and gave us, his family, plenty of fun things to do when we were growing up. Those memories will be stories all on their own.

Later in Dad’s career when he switched from State to County administration his moniker as “The Master of Disaster” really took hold. As my other friend Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Again, I am most proud that dad’s leadership was never stronger or more convicted than during those challenges he had to face with Columbine High School, sex offenders, and a weak and divisive board.

I think it is highly symbolic that the capstone to Dad’s career was his integral involvement in building a huge, state-of-the-art hospital and medical complex. That just seems fitting for this man to build a lasting institution that will help so many people.

I love these pictures I’ve posted today. They were taken in 1975 when dad was named Montana State Park’s Director. It was his first big job (of what would eventually be many) and he was young, eager and ready to take it on. I look at this picture and all I see is youth - and a FANTASTIC white patent leather belt. I was 8. Matt was 5. Mom was 29. Dad was 31. Lordy that seems like a long time ago! (Mom made the sign in the picture above that is hard to read in this picture. It says, "Home of Ron Holliday, New Montana State Park's Administrator!").

My ramblings today are not meant to sound like a eulogy. In fact, it’s anything but! This is a celebration because while Dad has had a great career, he is more than ready to retire, move home to the Last Stop and live the life of his own design. He will be busier, dirtier and happier than he’s probably ever been in his life and I am thrilled that every morning he and mom get to wake up and call their own shots. SCREW THE MAN!

My brother Matt, the awesome rock star, was planning to perform at the send-off party Dad’s coworkers threw last night, and his big closer was going to be, “Take This Job and Shove It!”, which I’m sure brought the house down.

As he said himself, I’d be surprised if Dad sees 5:00 at the office today because he is, OFFICIALLY, a free man.

I love you, Dad. Congratulations on a job well done.


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