Vitauts Take 8: Retirement

Vitauts Take 8: Retirement

In the pulpit for the last time.
In the pulpit for the last time.

Vitauts was a pastor for a long time. It was the life he knew and his identity for over fifty years. During that time, he was a respected figure of five communities and congregations. They referred to him as “pastor” because they couldn’t say his first or last name. And then, on November 2, 2014 he performed his very last service.

All of his living children were there along with most of his grandchildren and his one great-grandson, Nicholas.

I was able to rustle up one person who could do his retirement justice, the only Latvian pastor I knew from way back in our Yutan days: Andy Sedlins. Andy used to visit us every now and then when I was a little kid. We always remembered him because he had a shiny head, bushy beard, and he was much taller than we were. He was also Latvian, and somehow he and dad knew each other. I guess when I was a kid, I would have thought that all Latvian pastors just knew one another. It would have made sense.

I put out some feelers, made a phone call, sent and email and was finally able to reach him. At first, he was a bit put out because dad had left him in the lurch when Andy had ridden his motorcycle from Minnesota and needed a place to stay. He was riding in the rain, and had called dad to set up a meeting, but dad was not home. Vitauts had likely forgotten and gone to the casino as he did most Sundays.

I explained dad’s memory loss to Andy. I told him about how much he had lost in losing Liesma, and the warm heart of this Latvian pastor melted, and he said he would be at dad’s last service.

When dad first saw Andy, there was that glint of recognition, and then they started telling stories and laughing. Andy had been with dad right out of seminary. There were a group of pastors who would go around and hang out together. Kind of like a gang of theologians, and now they were reunited drinking wine and laughing.

Andy gave a wonderful toast at the celebration. He told a story about my mom and how she settled a fight over laundry. It was a classic Liesma story, and none of us had ever heard it before, so it was extra special.

Andra, Vitauts, Andy, Paul and Sue
Andra, Vitauts, Andy, Paul and Sue

The day finished up with a toast at the old parsonage on Mohawk Street, and then it was over. A few weeks later, we packed Vitauts up, and he moved in with me. Now he no longer stresses out on Saturday nights worrying about the next morning’s sermon. He still gets up early every morning, wears pants and a nice shirt, shaves and puts on his Brut aftershave, but instead of going to the office or editing the bulletin, he makes breakfast and earns a quiet morning of solitaire and coffee.

What does a person who has worked his entire life do once he’s finished at age 87?

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