Ask Abbie: Don’t force father to have retirement party

Published 9:11 am Monday, September 17, 2012

Question: My father is retiring from a long, dedicated 55 years of hard work.

He has always been our family’s major provider. We want to give back to him with a nice retirement party.

The problem is he says he doesn’t want a party. Half of the family wants to give him one anyway and the other half doesn’t.

Can you help us find a compromise?

Answer: How is your father coping with the idea of retirement?

If you were to send him a greeting card would he feel he deserves a congratulations card because he is excited? A get-well-soon card for the sick feeling in his stomach? Or a sympathy card for his grieving process?

This answer will help your family gain a better understanding as to why he doesn’t want a retirement party and help determine the best approach for resolving your dilemma.

By placing your father’s desires above your family’s preferences you show him respect and make it easier for him to feel his family’s rallying love and support as he closes this chapter of this life.

Retirees are forced to reassess the large work piece of their identity they have embraced for many years. This often brings to the surface feelings of apprehension and uncertainty about the future.

It is up to your family to insure your father feels in complete control of his retirement celebration to reinforce his confidence and self-worth.

OPTION ONE—Your father believes he deserves a congratulations card and is ready to spread his wings and sore into the next chapter of his life. He can’t stop talking about the “first thing I’m going to do when I retire is…” and counting down the hours until “I am free, free at last!”

In this case he doesn’t want a party because he doesn’t like social events or he thinks parties are a waste of money. Go to your father as a family. Tell him how much you love him and want to honor his years of hard work and dedication.

Get his opinion on how he would like to celebrate in a way other than a party.

One idea to suggest if he has difficulty coming up with a solution is a family workday. For a hard worker like your dad, productivity means a lot to him. Get the entire family together and build him a deck, or other place in the yard to relax with a drink and a book.

Consider a cookout with his favorite foods while you work.

OPTION TWO—Dad thinks he deserves a get-well-soon card. He has not fully embraced the concept of retirement, but doesn’t completely reject the idea. He is unsure of his future and a little scared of what the next chapter of his life might hold.

Don’t ask for his suggestions for a retirement celebration, instead give him several options, none of which are a party. Your suggestions should be full of excitement, aimed to lift his spirits and meant to instill confidence by using his strengths and passions as the focus.

For instance, if he enjoys woodworking go wood tool shopping as a family and let him pick out a tool. Help him get it home and set it up. If he is an avid golfer take him to the course, surprise him with a new club and treat him like a king.

OPTION THREE—Your father feels he is losing most of his identity and is not ready for any celebration until he has finished grieving. A sympathy card best captures his feelings and you should postpone any type of retirement celebration until a later date.

Make sure to let him know you love him and will always be there for him. Don’t try to fix the problem just help him stay busy and not have to spend a lot of time by himself.

Consider his retirement party at this time to be your rallying around him on a day-to -day basis with love and support.

There is strength in numbers. Come together as a family and work out any disagreements amongst yourselves before approaching your father. Family should contribute admiration and excitement to the overall well-being of retiring loved ones, not to the number of grey hairs atop their heads.

Let nature have that honor.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to