Friday, December 01, 2006

What a long, strange trip it's been...

...In the words of the immortal Gerry Garcia.
Anyway, first off I've got to apologize to my loyal readers for my lack of posts. I've been working 70 to 80 hours a week and quite frankly, really have been much to tired to form any kind of coherent thought to write for you all.
(And Kev, AJ is right, you don't have any room to talk!)
Now to what this coherent thought for the day is. It has been a long strange trip... Over the last few days, seeing my 41st birthday rapidly moving in on me, I took a few moments to ponder my past and realized how truly lucky I've been. It's been a long road to get to where I'm at in my life, a place where I'm truly happy with myself and who I am.
This is what I mean. Not many little boys get to grow up to become what they've dreamed of being. From around the time I was about 4 I wanted to be like Neil Armstrong and be an astronaut... Then at about 6 I realized that in order to do that I'd need to be a shitload better at math that I'd ever be... So around that time Emergency! was my favorite TV show and I wanted to become a fireman... Then at around 10 or 11 I saw my brother in his nice blue police uniform and the pistol on his hip and wanted to be a police officer... At around 16 I saw John Wayne in "The Green Berets" And aspired to be a soldier...
So, with the exception of the astronaut... I've done all of those things, I've been a soldier, cop, firefighter and EMT.
Pretty lucky, I must say.
But there was also one other thing I wanted to do. What I think I was meant to do.
My dad was a workaholic and being so we never really went on family vacations when I was growing up. Not until after her retired from the Frankford Arsenal in 1980 did we start going to Maine every summer, and then shortly after that started I enlisted in the Army.
He was a workaholic and we didn't take vacations, but he did spend time with myself and my siblings. Between Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, Little League and Civil Air Patrol he was always active in my childhood.
The one thing we'd do together seems really small and insignificant to most when I tell it, but was very important in my career now and how I formed the desire to work on the railroad.
About once or twice a month my dad and I, just the two of us, would hop into the family car and drive over to the old Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station at Torresdale, which is still a SEPTA commuter stop. Amtrak ceased using it as a passenger station years ago. We'd just sit in the car, listening to 56 WFIL AM and watch the trains go by. My dad loved trains and although he never told me, I knew he had the same dream that I had.
One summer day my dad and I were sitting on the hood and a Chessie System freight train came through slow enough for me to get a good look at the engineer in the cab of the locomotive. As the engine went by our vantage point, he looked right at me, smiled a big toothy grin and waved...
It was right then and there I wanted to do that. Sit in the cab of a massive diesel~electric locomotive and rumble across the country... I knew at the time it was only a pipe dream... Something that only other guys get to do...
Until now. Ironically it took my Ranger training to get me to where I am now... MY first adult job and the perserverance it taught me got me to where I am.
Soldier? Been there...
Cop? Done that...
Firefighter? Got the T-shirt...
Railroad Conductor/Engineer? Doing it now, loving every tiring, dirty and physically and emotionally draining moment of it.
And you know something? It's the only job I really wish my dad could see me doing. He's been gone quite a while now but I know he'd be proud of me.

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit-de-corps of the Rangers.


Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.


Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.
That creed has kept me going throughout everything... And because of that I am where I am today, where I really need to be.
And thanks Dad, for taking me to the train station.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

15 comments:

Red Hot Sexy Papa said...

Hey! Someone nominates you as my Red Hot Male Blogger 2006. Have fun!

ECBlade said...

Hey, nice to see you back and blogging, and an excellent post to start, too.

I remember the prevailing attitude when I was young, amongst the adults I knew, that changing careers was somehow abnormal and a sign of fickleness (is fickleness a word?). I remember, too, my Dad reinforcing the idea that to do so was probably healthier than staying in one place and never really growing.

I'm glad it's not thought of that way anymore...I'd hate to have only had one career. As a reader, I'm glad your dad took you on that trip, too.

Kev said...

Hey, I've certainly posted more than AKJen!

Tom, your dad knows.

AlaskaJen said...

Whoo-hoo! Aren’t I the lucky girl to have her BF nominated for the 2006 Red Hot Sexy Male Blogger!!!! Go Tom! Go Tom! When is the Awards Ceremony? I’ll have to buy a gown!!! Hmmm…..you in a tux – now there’s a thought that will keep me entertained! ;o)

Good things happen when you’re true to yourself. It’s too bad all little boys don’t have a Dad like your’s – the world would be a much better place. And I always wondered where my dad got the “intestinal fortitude” phrase…

And Kev –I sleep well at night knowing that if I had a blog, I would SO be kicking your blogging behind!!!!

Fathairybastard said...

"It's been a long road to get to where I'm at in my life, a place where I'm truly happy with myself and who I am."

Man, for a second there I thought you were gonna come out of the closet right here in front a God and everyone. Great post. You've truely been around. Have to admire someone who takes life by the horns. Anyway, I just turned 46, so yer just a baby.

Lisa said...

Welcome back. SO happy you are enjoying your work.

Crazy Me said...

I wish I could find the job that would give me as much satisfaction as yours does for you. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up ... and I'm almost 35!

tsduff said...

Happy Birthday Tom. What a touching post honoring your dad. My sweetie is a train man - when he hears that whistle I have to hold him down or he'll be gone. So nice to see you back.

Pedro the Ignorant said...

Tom, back in my Australian Army days, I posted up a copy of Roger's Rangers' Standing Orders, of which I am sure you are well acquainted. 1st Order; "Don't forget nothing" and it goes in equally colloquially written and eminently sensible style.

Despite being written over 200 years ago, most of Rogers Standing Orders can be used and adapted, not only to warfare, but to life in general.

Great to see you realizing life's dreams. Not everyone has that opportunity. Roll on, railroad man.

phlegmfatale said...

Good on your dad for taking you to the train station. I'm so happy for you that you are doing what you've always aspired to, even if you're working doubles every day. There's something to be said for following your dream. You did it, baby!

Outdoorsy Girl said...

Awesome post! It feels great when you realize your accomplishments and live out your dreams. (Not speaking from experience, but that's what I hear! LOL!)

Welcome back to the blogging world.

Mushy said...

40 is nothing, you have 20 years to get to where I am, and I have 20 years to go. Now, who should feel worse?

I'm having a good trip, so no worries here.

Reba said...

I hope I get to the point where I love my job. Right now it is just something that pays the bills.

Congratulations on your nomination.

honkeie2 said...

It is nice to see u back blogging and it is nice to see a post giving praise to their parents. Most blogs I read are always blasting their parents and the bad they did. Its such a relief to read a post I could never do but someday my boys might. I am just another fatherless grab ass working still that puts his boys before all. I hope to inspire mine to do better than me.
And thanks to u and all that serve this great country!

weatherchazer said...

I hope that one day I can find the satisfaction to say that what I dreamed of as a child, I became. Of course, I don't think I'd be a very cute spiderman!