Highs and Lows of Manufacturing and Life

My family has experienced highs and lows like manufacturing does, but nothing like we dealt with in 2016


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If there is one thing I learned in my career in manufacturing it is that it operates in cycles. There are good times in which it’s really nice to be involved in industry and there are times when business is bad and being involved is much less enjoyable.

I can remember the downturn in 1980, 1990, 2000, and of course the big one in 2008—the Great Recession. Happily, we seem to be on the ascendency at this time, but it’s always been fragile.

Usually though, my experience in these business cycles has been somewhat removed from my personal life. My family has experienced ups and downs, like manufacturing does, but nothing like what we dealt with in 2016. It was as England’s Queen Elizabeth described in 1992 as “Annus Horribilis,” meaning “horrible year.” There were many bad things happening to the monarchy that year.

In 2016, my family and I took our turn at the challenging year plate. Ironically, it started out so nicely. Last year at this time, my family and I were eagerly preparing for a European vacation that we planned to take for a long time. Tickets were bought, reservations made, tours lined up, we were one giddy bunch.

For my wife, my oldest son and one of my twin daughters, this was their first trip across the pond. Including spouses, we were a party of eight. For me, it was my first two-week-in-a-row vacation since I started working almost 40 years ago. I simply never took the time, which in some ways I regret even though I really enjoy my job.

We did the vacation right. Flying from Cincinnati, we landed at Heathrow in London and met up with my youngest son who had been working and living there for a year. He was our guide and flawlessly navigated the tube to get us around the city.

After a few days of bangers and mash, walking many miles and seeing the sights, we hopped a plane to our next stop, which was Rome. I had never been to Rome as most of my Italian visits centered on the northern part of the country, especially around Milan. Rome was outstanding. Being a history buff, where else can one see the things that Rome has to offer. I just wandered around with my jaw slack.

One morning, my wife and daughter got up early and walked to St. Peter’s square. They went to see Pope Francis as he was driven around the square. It was Wednesday. My daughter maneuvered the two of them to the edge of the fencing and the Pope drove by within a few feet. Two thrilled Cincinnati girls returned back to our flat with pictures and an indescribable glow. 

From Rome, we hopped a train that took us up the spine of Italy, the Apennine Mountains in view most of the way as we traveled to Venice. Being in the northern part of Italy I had visited Venice several times and love it. I find Venice to be less of a destination and more of a frame of mind.

We spent a few days traipsing around the city and eating in outdoor cafes along the canals. For me, one of many charms of Venice is that it is quiet. Because there are no cars, the coo of pigeons are the dominant sound.

One of those cafés offered a 3-liter beer mug that my son in-law took advantage of. As he downed this monster, people walking along the canal stopped to watch, applaud and some even took pictures.

From Venice, we boarded a cruise ship to visit Greece. Four islands were on our itinerary and for those of you who cruise, the journey is as good as the destination. Greeted with beautiful weather and amazing clear water in the Adriatic, we hit Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu and Olympus, one each day on our voyage back to Venice. It was spectacular.

We flew home from Venice with our once-in-a-lifetime memories logged in. But within a week of coming home, our world was rocked and for the past year, we have been trying to right our ship. In mid-June last year, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, she has had major surgery and months of chemotherapy. It was truly a challenging year.

The good news is she’s in remission now, which has become my favorite word. I know that 2008 was a bad year for manufacturing, but 2016 makes it pale by comparison from my point of view.