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I consider myself a friend to many. If you place me in a nursery or an old folks home, I will smile with those around me. What does any of this have to do with integrity and the empty nest?

My life has been a reflection of the care and concern I have received. Whether good or bad, it has all been a lesson for what I want to be in the world.

While some claim that kindness is weakness, I claim it has power. As others suggest that love is hard to find, I search it out in all things.

From an early age, I understood that the joy of this moment might give way to the sadness that leaving brings. Also, I perceived that the memories mattered.

The focus of our thoughts might be on loss, which is a memory. We might also concentrate on the joy in our lives. Also a memory.

This is an attempt to define two things at once.

Integrity and the empty nest.

The Wedding

bridge and groom standing while holding flower bouquet
Photo by Trung Nguyen on

There were friends that I knew already. Some were friends of the groom and some were friends of the bride.

My good fortune was that I loved both the groom and the bride.

For four years, my discussions with the groom centered around how we are to be managed, while at the same time, manage. How we learn a thing or two, in a world where others are convinced they know already.

Regardless of our position, we both suspected were learning from each other.

This groom also loved a girl in this world. This girl brought a great amount of joy to my friend.

While I am sure she brought more joy to my life than mine to hers, I enjoyed her as well. We told each other dad jokes.

Usually through our shared love for the young man, that made the best decision he has ever made, when he have his heart fully to this girl.

By a creek, in front of friends and family, they were wed.

The Gang

photography of people riding horses
Photo by Brett Sayles on

Their wedding brought a few of us back together.

The groom and I had long since left the company that created the gang in the first place. His being on his terms, and mine being, well… you know.

There is a line in a Bob Dylan song, “drifting from scene to scene”.

That describes me yesterday, as I heard stories of love and living, from each person I spoke with before and after the ceremony. When they asked me who I was, I simply pronounced my name.

When asked how I knew the couple, I said, “I used to work with Wesley, but Kristellin and I have been telling each other dad jokes for a few years.”

At some point, while we were eating a fine meal offered at the reception, the old gang and I began talking about the good old days. I sat across from the father of the groom, and suddenly he looked up and said, “I just realized who you are.”

I looked him in the eye, knowing he was a great dude because of my conversations with his son, and said, “me too.”

We grinned.

Real Talk

As it happens with older folk, we discussed more of life than the living.

Topics like, college is not the answer for all learning and how common sense is harder to find these days.

Private equity came up, and also how people have lost the art of being simple, empathetic, humans.

Him knowing some part of life, and my knowing another, yet somehow with the simple understanding that neither of us had it all figured out.

Except for the part where his son and his new daughter-in-law were both fine people and something for which we could both be proud.

I told him about the time in 2016 when an HR Director tried to bed me in Jacksonville. How she said, “I cannot believe you do not want to sleep with the HR Director.”

It was offered as tale of power and its ability to corrupt.

The kids, or “the young guns” as I came to know them through the years, scoffed. They exclaimed, “that never happened!”

As if their former manager had lost his mind, or that now suffered from delusions. I looked at them and smiled, looked at my new friend and smiled, and said, “okay.”

What does any of this have to do with integrity and the empty nest?

Real Integrity

brown wooden blocks on white table
Photo by Brett Jordan on

Suddenly I realized, that in all of these years, not one of these dudes had heard the story about my struggle with sexual harassment in the work place.

I puffed up with pride as I considered my not having bled out on these guys with my sob stories or what I knew about the corruption in our company.

As I drove away smiling, something else hit me.

That story was shared with a few people. That story of tribulation.

Not with everyone, but with some. No help was offered other than the promise of her getting a slap on the wrist if I reported the incident.

In later years, it was shared with the groom.

Suddenly, all this talk of integrity had the face of a 20 something year old kid (kid used with all respect in a world of silly adults).

I asked him not to spread it around. It was obvious, that he had not spread it around.

Somehow he tucked the story away in his brain, and did exactly what he should have done with that information. He let it inform our relationship and understanding, but never considered it a window for gossip.

To hell with what I believe integrity is or how I possess such a thing.

I watched it get married yesterday.

The Empty Nest

I met a lot of people yesterday. Some from other places and some near my home. There were mommas and dads, aunts and childhood friends. Grandparents.

Cigarettes were shared, food was served, and some young lovers made it “official”.

There will be no empty nesting. Sometimes love wins big.

All dad jokes aside, these two belong together.

These two are channels of light in what sometimes seems to be a dark world. Just like they were raised to do, by families that before loved one, but now love two. That is the secret of integrity and the empty nest.

And here is the last bit of wisdom the bride shared with me before I had to take off yesterday.

The sound a nut makes when it sneezes? Cashew.

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Have a great day. Take care of each other. I am rooting for you.

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Author: Kevin Thompson

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