HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

July 23, 2007

Seasons of life

I’ve been very aware of the seasons of life lately. We’ve all heard song: “A time to dance, a time to mourn, everything turns, turns, turns.”

There truly are different seasons, all revolving around the fact that things change, people change, and it’s often hard to cope with these , especially when it is the result of our own decisions.

I had my last day at Retro this weekend, a place that inspired the name for the column and the place that for the past three years has transformed my perspective on life and seasoned it with great people.

Retro may look like a regular café on the outside, but it holds a greater importance than coffee, ice cream, and sandwiches in so many people’s lives.

When you apply and are accepted to the team, it’s more than being hired, it’s the invitation to the large, warm, and very unique family.

The owners, Heidi and Bill, have created a place where people from every generation, every background, can come and enjoy themselves, most of which have, and continue to do so daily.

The most prominent members of the Retro family are the old guys that visit Retro every day.

Retro mornings remind me of a PG version of Cheers; well maybe not PG when Harvey is around. These guys are drinking strictly coffee and still get a little bit rowdy.

They have become familiar faces and often seem like grandpas. With each new cup of medium rare decaf, or in Nick Oeffling’s case, medium on the bottom, decaf on the top, the volume increases, and the conversations continue, jumping around from Loretto’s baseball stats to whether or not I’ve got a fella these days. Leave it to Harvey to be the first person to ask that question.

They are all sweet at heart, coming each day to share their company with people that will undoubtedly provide them with top-of-the-line service, even if Jim Oeffling says he never gets his toast to him when it’s warm.

I guess you could say that Retro has done so much for these guys in providing them with a place to shoot the breeze and have their names posted on a bar, but in actuality, these guys have seasoned our lives with their wisdom, humor, and hearty laughter every morning.

The Old Guys have had the unique opportunity to watch each of the Retro crew grow from high school to collegiate, imparting wisdom when they see fit – but most of the time, just sharing stories about the fun and wild times they had when they were my age, creating a relationship that extends past just being a regular, into the feeling of family.

Whether it’s veggies from Harvey, flowers from Leroy, or hugs from Jim, each of the guys has been through the different seasons of life in different ways, creating characters that radiate in Retro every morning through their rowdy discussions and often humorous conversations.

The Retro family doesn’t stop there.

I think the most significant and notable part of the Retro family is just under 5 feet tall, with a thick Italian accent and goes by the name, Anna Maria Lucia Teresa Rosati (I think that’s almost right?).

Anna is Bill’s mom and has been coined “the boss” around Retro. She comes in every morning to prep vegetables, but her presence does far more than provide freshly-cut produce.

Every morning, you welcome her with your best Italian accent, Anna Maria, and she echoes the rest of her name, followed by a request in Spanish for her café, a double shot of espresso.

This woman is one of a kind, the kind of uniqueness that you feel inspired by. Her life began in Italy, and as Bill would tell it, she came straight off the boat to the US.

Her life is full of stories, interesting, hilarious, amazing, and always compelling, and has allowed her to become a woman of great passion, integrity and compassion for doing what is right and preserving the peace, not to mention her strong devotion to the Democratic party.

Her passion and intelligence have led her and I to have many discussions about life, politics, and spirit, all the while teaching me things about life that I would never have learned on my own.

This family is so diverse, and unique and I could go on and on, and wish that I could, but there simply isn’t the space.

I’ve gotten to know so many people, employees, customers, and regulars over the past three plus years that have touched my life, all because Heidi and Bill had a passion to create a place that would be generations of fun, a true inspiration for anyone who has a dream.

With each decision, it is a new step forward in life, a different season, and a time of change. It is often difficult to leave what you have established and experienced behind, but there is nowhere to go but forward. I think it’s a matter of living each moment so that you know that each season of your life was fully lived.