Eventually, I graduated and moved on to other things. The story of my higher education would be brief and not especially interesting, and I will not speak more of it here. I will only say that I live in fear that some day Ann Coulter will refer to me (as she invariably does Michael Moore) as “college dropout Ray Paden.” It would be a blow that I doubt I could endure.
Right out of high school, I sought employment at my father’s business. He had joined that firm after World War II, worked his way in and up, and now owned it. I started out as a “flunkie” (sweeping floors and washing parts) but soon was promoted to truck driver. From there I learned to wind motors, repair welding equipment, and rebuild gasoline engines. Eventually, I created and organized a Parts Department to manage the inventory. When it was time for the company bookkeeper to retire, I was sure that I could do that too, so I bought a book on accounting and took it on. When I decided we needed a computer, I read some books on the subject and started nagging. It took about five years, but eventually Dad gave in and allowed me to buy one. It wasn’t easy, but I single-handedly migrated the business into the computer-age. Transforming my father into the computer age was much harder, but I eventually managed that too.
I spent almost thirty-five years at the family business, taking it over from Dad and more or less running it into the ground after his retirement. A series of disasters (some of them truly beyond my control) crushed my will to continue and I sold parts of the business off and went to work for a competitor. Eventually the business where we had both spent so much of our lives was no more.
I worked for my former competitor and his successor for about six years, but I was plagued with back pain, probably the cumulative results of years of picking up heavy stuff incorrectly, jumping off of loading docks and garage roofs and doing other stupid things. In January of 2014 I had surgery to fuse a couple of vertebra, and during my recovery I developed myasthenia gravis. That is a whole ‘nother story, but one that I am not prepared to tell in this medium.