Almost 40 years ago, my parents moved to Wichita, KS when my father accepted a marketing position at the corporate headquarters of Pizza Hut. I was born soon after and the rest, they say, is history. The story of my father’s rise to pizza and rent-to-own infamy is well documented…but this story isn’t about him. Its about another rising star named Linda Wyatt. I won’t dare butcher the telling of her story as I only have a small role in it, but I’d like to tell you about that role as it has had a profound impact on my life.
Linda and my dad began working together in the early 80’s. Secretary? Executive Assistant? Business Executive? Super Woman who does everything? Wearer of many hats? My dad’s right arm? (or was my dad her right arm?) Again, I’m not going to butcher the story and I don’t know all the titles nor how they evolved, but I do know the role she played in my life, my family’s life, my dad’s life, my businesses, and more. I want to recognize one of the titles she has had in my life…one they don’t put on plaques over office doorways:
My family is very close and we pride ourselves on how emotionally available we are for each other. We also have a lot of honorary uncles, aunts, brothers, and sisters. My mom is my mom, but there is one other person who has looked at me and cared for me the same way my mother does…and that’s Linda. She played with me as a child, helped me with my homework while I waited for my dad at the office, taught me proper grammar, met my girlfriends, proofread my resumes, called to check on me while I was away at college, hugged me when I got married, brought me soup when I was ill, stood up for me when I was not strong, plays with my children just like she used to play with me, and has always been there for me when I need her. She prays for me, my parents, my sister, and my children. She is part of the family. Her daughter was my baby sitter when I was a child. Now we’re all grown up with kids of our own. She used to help keep me in line when I was a child playing at the office. Now she reminds me every day that I can do what I want and should play more in life. She was once the person who assisted my dad with everything he did. Now I think of her more as a partner in the family business and a bigger partner in our family.
She is intertwined with my family and business…and today is her retirement.
Linda has worked with my dad for over 30 years. Over 60% of her professional career has been spent working with him…and with that comes working with the family. Linda has done everything from scheduling airlines for my school travel to debating marketing tactics in the board room. She seamlessly weaves between the role of business executive and maternal figure at our office. If asked to describe Linda with one word I think most people I know would say, “professional.” And I would agree. I have never met someone with so much integrity, patience, knowledge, and professionalism in all my life. However, I think the word I might choose would be “loving.” I say this because I know Linda has loved her work, loved her co-workers, loved my family, and loved her family. It is clear she does what she does out of love…steadfast, truthfulness…humble, authentic care.
I also know that she is likely reading this right now and blushing with shyness or red with anger…so I’ll keep it short so as not to cross her boundaries of professionalism.
I just wanted to say publicly, to the woman who is also one of my most ardent readers, that I love you dearly and appreciate everything you have done for me, my family, and my father. I know this is not goodbye. I know this is simply the end of you working every day. However, I would be lying if I said I won’t miss you dearly and I feel extremely sad. I’m not sad because you are retiring…I’m selfishly sad because I will miss you and I’ll miss seeing you every day and I miss how you make me feel. You make me feel at home. When I see you it is like a hug in my heart. No matter how stressful my day, no matter how much life throws at me, no matter how rough I feel when I’m having anxiety…seeing you centers me and reminds me that things are going to be okay. You have always seen through me and recognized when I’m having a rough time…and you have always been in my office a few minutes later to embrace me in a hug and remind me that you’re there for me and that you believe in me. I know I’ll likely never find that again in business. This has been a very, very special time.
I am excited for your retirement. I see how hard you work. I know the long hours you put in. I know that you take your work home with you. I know how much care you put into your work. I see all of it and have an idea about the things I don’t see. I am excited for you to start to let those things go and focus on yourself, your family, and your faith. I believe that in your retirement you will channel those traits into a cause, an organization, a family member, or something else…and someone else will get to see how amazing you are. I truly believe this is the beginning of something special for you and I’m proud of you for being brave enough to seize it. You will be missed in business…but business is business and we’ll figure it out. Family is family…and that is different.
You are family.
So, from an honorary son-like guy…to an honorary mother-like role model; I love you Linda. This is not, “Goodbye”…this is, “Let’s grab lunch.” This is, “See you at Max’s birthday.” This is, “Call me when you need me.” This is, “I’ll call you when I need you.” This is the beginning of us being family, which we’ve always been, but now we get to focus on it more.
As I wrote this last sentence you emailed me…we are clearly thinking about each other right now…and thinking about each other in the same way. You addressed your letter,
You are like a son to me. You are very special in my eyes and always will be. Please remember I am a safe place to land when needed.”
This was when I started crying…so thank you for that. I won’t share your email as it is just for you and me but I do want to quote your last sentence because the same rings true from me to you:
“Take care of yourself. It’s okay for you to be who you are. I am always available to you. Love you.”
I love you too Linda…like a mom.
See you soon.
Congratulations on your retirement.