V. Family Disturbed
Steve and Sandra had already decided that they would attend only the Worship Services on Sunday. They would forego the Bible Study hour.
Further he and Sandra decided that they would go back to Walter and Dessie’s home for lunch. So much food had been prepared.
John and Sarah came with them as did Sam and Joan. Junior and June wanted to be alone. Maybe by Monday and with his work keeping him busy, it would be the start of a new day for him.
For all that they were and for all that they did –now was the time to start thinking about moving on. The bank and the community would demand it – starting Monday.
Steve was already starting to think about some of the loan applications that were in the works. And the public zoning commission was conducting a status report for a new park on the outskirts of town near the new residential development.
“And no one could overlook the elephant in the room,” thought Steve, “there was the family. What would come with the changes that were mandated by the board and the banking commission?”
Steve tried to put himself in Sam’s position, “Sam was the oldest son most thought that he would succeed his Dad. Now he would find that that little change was coming his way even if he considered it change at all.”
Steve thought to himself, “I am not so sure I could accept it. That would be horrifying not only for today but for years to come. According to actuary tables, I probably have 30 years of productive work with the bank and that means he will be left in the dust behind me.”
“We are going to have to have a meeting of the minds to determine some level existence as we go forward to the future,” calculated Steve. “It definitely was a subject to cover together as a family.”
Sandra was not oblivious to the things that were being said around town. Most of it was probably just guessing, but then some of it carried a certain amount of truth. “How would Sam like working for Steve? Would he and Junior abandon the ship? These questions had to be asked and answered,” she was concerned.
The food was ready and everyone went in to eat. Steve stopped everyone for a moment to say grace. If anything was certain in Walter and Dessie’s home, it was that you prayed before you eat a meal.
Walter expressed many times he did not know where the next meal was coming from and that he was always grateful for the blessings of the Lord. In his household he never ever wanted to touch a bite of the food until he thanked God for it.
As they were selecting their food, Steve said, “I want the family to have a meeting after dinner.” No one had mentioned the will although it was on everyone’s mind.
Since everyone knew basically what was in the will, it would give a chance to express their feelings. Steve felt that if they really dealt with their true feelings, they could begin the laborious task of setting the ship afloat, i.e. family, in the proper direction.
It was understood that not everyone would be in accord with the provisions of the will; however, it was the expectations of their Mom and Dad that they agree on the provisions. The divisions were thought to be in the best interest of the family.
Steve had asked Sherry to come in to help with the leftover food from the community. Much of it had not been touched and he wanted to share it with the employees of the bank and the balance to go to the local church homeless kitchen. It would need to be wrapped and they could come and pick it up on Monday.
Sherry came in while they were eating. Sandra invited her to join them, but she said, “No, I have already eaten and you know me food goes straight to calories and calories to weight and I do not need weight.”
Sherry came prepared with plenty of aluminum wrapping and containers to store up the food. Transferring the food to carryout containers would free up the dishes to be cleaned and returned to the rightful owners.
Sherry went into the kitchen and started organizing the food for takeout. Then she cleaned the dishes. So much food had been brought as an act of love by the love of their friends and neighbors in the community. The family could choose whatever cuisine they felt like eating – it was there.
When everyone at the table had finished eating, Steve invited them into the parlor. He wanted to have a preliminary family meeting to discuss the will.
Sandra went to see if Sherry needed anything. She didn’t. Sarah joined Sandra in the kitchen and they made coffee.
Sandra grabbed up the tray and cups for the coffee to take to the parlor. John finished up his last bite of dessert and followed Dad.
Sam, Joan, Junior, and June were already in the parlor waiting for Steve and Sandra along with John and Sarah to come in. “That was great food especially the fried chicken,” said Sam, “you can’t beat cold friend chicken.”
Sam and Junior lay back for a moment on the large couch and recliner to just relax as they talked about all that had happened at the Memorial Service. They still were very much in awe of everything that had transpired. Sam said, “Such an outpouring of love and support.”
“The note from the President; the Governor; the recognition plaques; and the flag. Not to mention everyone who attended the Memorial Service,” added Junior. It made for a very eventful day and the end of a legacy for their parents.
So much for them now to address with their own lives as they looked forward to servicing the community. Sandra came in with the tray of coffee cups and a pot of coffee. She helped pour a cup for Sam and Junior.
Joan did not care for any as she said, “It will keep me up all night.” June passed as well.
Sandra set the tray down on the table and joined Steve on the couch. He sat next to Junior and he too breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s been a big weekend for us,” said Steve tapping Junior on the leg.
Sandra declared, “Sherry has the food ready to be picked up in the morning and she is about through washing the dishes. I told her to get what she wanted and take the rest to the break room at the bank.”
Steve stated, “We can pass the word around to let everyone know to come by and pick up their dishes. I think most of them have names and phone numbers on the bottom of the dishes.”
Having the meeting to the parlor instead of the den was a conscientious decision by Steve as he wanted the meeting to take on a professional perception concerning what was to be discussed. This was going to be serious business and Steve was not sure everyone would like the outcome.
The furniture in the parlor was just what you would expect for an antebellum war era. Walter had been a Civil War buff and had many books relating to the subject in the adjoining book cases. He had managed to accumulate furniture from that particular time.
He took pride in some of the antiques he had secured – a Calvary Officer’s Saber Sword from a battle on a Virginia hill somewhere. Supposedly he had found it in an auction in a little town in east Georgia. He never had it verified, but it made for an interesting conversation piece as he embellished the weapon.
There were even a couple of single shot rifle-muskets. He had an old Confederate cannon in the back corner that he kept in mint condition. He claimed he could take it outside and fire it if he wanted but that never happened.
The room with its nostalgia interior made for a comfortable setting. The furniture was designed for maximum comfort.
After Steve went away to Belmont in Nashville, the room never particularly meant that much to him, but now sitting there and looking around, he saw his Dad in every piece of memorabilia on display.
“How Dad would laugh and point to an artifact or that piece of history and tell a grandiose story behind it,” thought Steve. “So much of him is right here in this room. And it will forever be. We are going to have to see that this room never gets changed but is left just like Dad liked it.”
Steve announced, “I thought it best for everyone sit in with us. Everybody is going to be as much a part of this as any of us.”
Sam and Junior both nodded in agreement. Sandra came in asking, “Y’all waiting for me?”
“Yes, but you are here now. So no,” Steve laughed.
Steve said, “As a family we have not prayed together other than over a meal for quite a long time. Why don’t we join hands and have a prayer before we start? I will lead it.”
There was a joining of the hands around the room and Steve began, “Lord, we have been through so much this weekend and we know that we could not have made it without you. Thank you for helping us through this.”
He continued, “We know that there are going to be many days ahead when we will miss Mom and Dad tremendously and wish that we could go to them for advice. But we know that you will make a way for us to follow your will. In the best interest of this family and the precious name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.”
Finishing the prayer, Steve’s mind was brought back to the issues at hand. He turned to Sam and Junior and stated, “First things first. Monday, the first order of business for the bank is that the doors will open on time according to schedule.”
He instructed, “All of us need to be there on time to address the employees and to greet the folks as they come in. Everyone needs to know that the nothing has changed and that our standard of excellence will be maintained throughout the transition.”
He then turned to Sam and asked him, “Do you have any comments on anything that we need to address concerning opening the doors beyond that? Am I overlooking anything regarding the bank?”
Sam looked hesitantly toward Junior and said, “No, for the most part I think you have covered opening the doors and getting back to business. And I agree with you that now is not the time for change period other than what the Board has approved.”
Steve turned and addressed Junior, “Junior, we are going to concentrate on moving forward but I do not wish to engage any new projects just yet. We will take a week and get our feet back on the ground – then we can look at what is going on and get a direction after that.”
He went on, “If new projects come during this first week, accept them, and assure the clients we will take a definitive position on everything within a week to 10 days. Use the same time frame on any current things we are working on.”
“The lumber contract, for example that the mill wants to get handled, will get priority as we will get back on it starting Monday week at best,” explained Steve. “They are OK right now.”
“Carl, the mill superintendent has already given me the clearance we can hold off until we get restructured,” informed Steve. “There’s nothing to worry about there.”
Steve knew that now would be the time to address the family regarding the will and the bank reorganization. He began, “All of you know the bank changes – I have been appointed President and Chairman of the Board; Sam is moving to Executive Vice President of Operations; and Junior is becoming the Executive Vice President of Loan Development.
Turning to Sam, “You need to get with our Public Relations Department and get a press release out to this effect Monday. Have it printed in the newspapers and publish it on our social media outlets.”
He went on, “In line with that, get new name plaques and desk signs for all of us with our new titles. We might as well get used to who we are.”
“I know you probably have already thought of this,” said Steve, “but it crossed my mind. I wanted to mention it.”
“One last thing,” explained Steve, “Bring in the gold leaf artist and have the doors changed as well. These are cosmetic changes but they need to be completed as soon as possible.”
“Now to the important matter at hand.” Steve started, “Regarding the will, we will have some time before it can be probated; however, I think all of us know most of it.”
He began, “When it comes to liquid assets, they will be equally divided between Sam and me. The final figures will become evident after the audit.”
“Junior, there is a piece of land that Dad bought up by the river where at one time he considered building a home,” stated Steve. “You know where it is out on the north side of town. He and Mom wanted you to have that.”
“Dad felt that with the commercial growth going north; the property might have a considerable value so he hung on to it,” explained Steve. “I think both Sam and I are in agreement that you should have it.”
“Now for John and Sarah to equally share in the family assets. They are going to be awarded this home place,” added Steve.
“Not as a residence as such, but as a historical monument to Mom and Dad’s legacy,” he continued, “I will oversee it for the time being and when it is appropriate, they will assume control.”
Steve stated, “It will be so stated that the home and its contents are to remain ‘as is’ and maintained to the inth degree of excellence. It will serve as a tribute to Mom and Dad.”
Steve informed the family, “There will not be any need for John and Sarah to ever think about selling it. They will not need the money as you know money will be no object for them, us, or any of you for that matter.”
He went further, “The home instead will be a dedicated historical piece of property owned by John and Sarah. I have discussed it with them and we have decided to place it in a foundation for supervision and maintenance.”
Going on, “We could at some point in the future place the residence on a social register and set up donations from tourists who want to visit the estate. The funds collected can be placed in an endowment fund. The interest will eventually cover all expenses for maintenance on a perpetual basis.”
Steve continued, “Settlement of the liquid assets should take no more than a month or so. When the audit is complete, the disbursement of funds can be made to Sam and me as part of the probate settlement.”
He further explained, “No need to go into the amount just yet. It would be better to just wait for the audit. Dad set up Warner as the Executer for the will and he will keep us informed on the due process for the probate hearing.”
He continued to lay out the details, “Lastly to the stock owned by Mom and Dad. As you know Dad set up 7 trusts for the stock. He put equal shares of stock in each trust. He had one for Sam, me, Joan, Sandra, Junior, John, and Sarah.”
Steve explained, “At his death, his stock was to be divided equally between the trusts. That means that approximately 14.25% of the stock will be given to each trust. While John and Sarah are in school, they have agreed that they will grant Power of Attorney to me and I will control John and Sarah’s trust.”
Going further, Steve said, “Sandra has equally granted Power of Attorney for her trust which gives me at this point 57% control of the stock. As President and Chairman of the Board, I will have the controlling interest of the stock with the bank.”
Steve paused for a moment to let that sink in. That is one part of the will that had never been openly discussed. He wondered what thoughts Sam would have at this point.
After a moment, Steve continued. “I will not own any stock other than my own; however I will have Power of Attorney over John, Sarah and Sandra’s stock.”
Sam shook his head as in disappointment. It was difficult to understand completely. Not wanting to get into it either at this juncture, Steve let it go and Sam did not pursue it.
Sam was thinking, “If only I had followed Joan’s lead and not allowed them do that tubal ligation procedure. We could have had more kids and the way Dad looked at it; he would have been fair with all of the grandkids.”
He pondered, “But that was not to be. The pie is cut and cannot be changed. Even if he got Junior and Joan to go along with him, the 43% could not change the course of history.”
He knew, “It is not as if Steve had gone behind his back and cajoled Dad into doing something underhanded. Dad would not have allowed it even if he had tried.”
He remembered, “If there was one thing about Dad, he always thought about being equal in his care and concern for his family. It was just the way the cookie crumbled.”
Troubled, Sam continued to reminisce, “If only I had known about this ahead of time, I could have lobbied Dad in my behalf – but not now. It is set in concrete.”
His final thoughts, “At any rate; now is not the time while everyone is still suffering from the grief of losing Mom and Dad. There will just have to be another day to go into this.”
He concluded thinking, “Being the Executive Vice President of Operations of the only bank in Lebanon is still a prestigious position and Joan can certainly hold her head up high with that.”
Wondering about Joan, made him consider, “Oh boy, I bet she is just biting at the bit to get to m. She will want to know what happened and why it happened. Well I cannot change it and she will just have to live with it.”
Sam knew Joan would be upset, “Make her happy – not in the least – as she had mentioned many times in our conversations at home. She always thought there would come a day when I would be made the President and Chairman of the Board when Dad retired.”
“Now she is going to know,” thought Sam, “that I will never – for the foreseeable future – be the head honcho of the Community Bank of Lebanon. She will just have to get used to it.”
Breaking out of his personal mode for a moment, Sam addressed Steve, “Passing on the stock issue since you have control, I agree that we should not do anything for the immediate future.”
He continued, “I will get on the cosmetic changes and get with Warner on the press release first thing Monday morning. When do you think we should try to get back together to debrief – the first of the week, mid week, Wednesday, or wait until Friday morning maybe?”
Steve was relieved to hear Sam moving on to the future with the bank. “At least for the moment he was not challenging anything that had been done to date. That in itself was a major concession for Sam,“ he thought.
Steve knew how Sam had always wanted more attention than he was receiving from his work at the bank. He had always felt, “One day Sam would move on to another endeavor or God forbid – he would just old as another fixed feature in the bank.”
Moving on in Lebanon, however, would require some major moving. His salary requirements and background experience limited what he could do.
The commercial accounts in Lebanon through the bank could not stand that kind of a hit on their bottom line. Steve concluded, “That is all that I have at the moment. Does anyone have any questions?”
Joan spoke up immediately, “Just for clarity sake and this is not to be taken the wrong way. You will be controlling the bank because you have two kids and we only have one?”
Steve responded, “Joan, you know Dad as well as I do. He wanted to address the immediate family with what he did and that meant that he would give equally to all.”
“And since his immediate family consisted of two boys with their wives, and three grandchildren, he did exactly that,” Steve explained. “He set up 7 trusts – one for each of us – for what he considered his immediate family.”
Steve continued, “I will have the Power of Attorney for John and Sarah until they finish school and then they will have the right to do as they please. Granted that does give me 57% control for the moment but not forever.”
Again, he explained, “There will come a day when John and Sarah will assume their rightful position with their trust. Until then, I have power of attorney with their stock.”
“Is it the stock or the bank positions that give you cause for concern?” asked Steve. “The positions came from Dad with the plan approved by the state banking commission and through the Board prior to his death.”
He finished, “That was regardless of the division of the stock. The positions were approved by the Board.”
Joan exhibiting a certain amount of disgust said, “Well it looks like your children should be treated as one since Junior is one and that would have given equal shares to all involved.”
Steve countered, “What about the property that Junior is getting? That land – if not already – is going to be very valuable. And you see what we are doing with the home place”
“John and Sarah will not see any benefit from selling nor even living in the home should they so desire. Junior can do as he pleases with his property,” stated Steve.
Continuing, “If Junior is willing and Sam goes along with it, we can for the sake of discussion take the property from Junior and give it to John and Sarah and treat their stock as one instead of two.”
“It would take a bunch of haggling with the probate court to get it approved. If that is what you want then we can have Warner take a look at it.”
He went on, “But if I have Power of Attorney over John and Sarah as one, that means that the stock would be divided up into 16.67% shares and when you combined mine with John and Sarah as one: it would be a 50-50 split – for our family and yours.”
He explained, “Even if you controlled Junior’s share, the decisions with me holding the approved positions at the bank and approved by the Board still gives me actual control without officially controlling the stock.”
Sam jumped in immediately and said, “No, leave it like it is. Joan, this is what Dad wanted.”
Junior without hesitation exclaimed, “I want the property and not the other 2% of stock which is all that it would be with John and Sarah as one and me as one.”
Junior responded, “The positions are set for who knows how long at the bank. The Board is in charge of that. Uncle Steve is going to be the President and Chairman of the Board. Let it remain so.”
Joan, relenting knowing that she was outnumbered, stated, “Well Steve asked if anyone had a question and I did. I said it was not to be taken the wrong way.”
Sandra and June had sat quietly during the conversation. Sandra contemplated to herself, “To see Joan as least be able to express her feelings was good and perhaps it might have cleared the air to some degree.”
She thought, “But knowing Joan, this was not going to be the end. A lot of the hurt for the next few days and even months is going to come first from losing Mom and Dad; then the will – after that we will just have to wait and see.”
June in the meantime, decided to wait and talk to Junior when they got home. She thought she understood his reasoning on the land since it would give him freedom to do with it as he pleased. They could discuss it at home.
She considered,, “There is plenty of time to clear the air in the privacy of their home on these matters as they headed toward probate with Warner. That would be the best for now.”
John and Sarah knew that by giving their Power of Attorney to their Dad; their interest would be best served by their Dad. School was their first priority right now.
Sam spoke up with a smile on his face, “Well that pretty much gives us direction for the next few weeks at least. I am sure things will change as we move forward. We can look at what is needed with the changes at that time.”
Sam stated, “Joan, we have got to get home. I have not gotten my usual Sunday afternoon nap. I would hate to fall asleep on the way home.”
“Yeah,” replied Steve, “I’m getting to that age as well. Sandra, we need to get on our way too. John, you, and Sarah are riding with us so I guess you are going with us.”
Steve remembered Sherry and went to see if she needed anything, “I will tell Sherry to finish up with what she is doing and take a couple of days off. She has put in a full weekend with us anyway when you take into consideration Saturday and now today.”
“Knowing her though, she probably will not do it but we can see that she gets some time off maybe at graduation when her son is completing high school. She has been a tremendous help for us,” said Steve.
Junior and June moved to the front door and were the first to head toward their car. Sam and Joan headed toward their car as well.
Steve could see that Sam was going to have some explaining to do to Joan about what has just happened. Her hands were flailing all about. She would have been stymied had someone tied her hands. Must be some Irish in her background; he chuckled to himself.
Sandra came to the front door with John and Sarah. Steve had told Sherry what to do, but he knew Sherry would be the first one in. She would be there bright and early the next morning at the bank ready to go to work.
Steve drove along the picturesque drive back to their home. It would take him pass the bank.
Tomorrow would be the first day for the rest of their lives in this new environment without Mom and Dad. “It wasn’t going to be easy.”
He would like to think that the weekend had pretty well taken care of their emotions, but that was not always the case. Grief slips up on you when you least expect it.
There would still be friends that his Mom and Dad had known for years that would want to come by the bank and share their condolences for our loss. So many of Dad’s friends would come by who Dad had thought hung the world. It would be tough.
“There it is,” Steve’s heart leaped and then did a flip over as he thought how many times he had taken that bank building for granted. It could almost be declared a monument to the community.”
Now come tomorrow, it would be his business to proclaim to the masses that the bank was still the same. He thought, “We are ready to do business in the same professional and efficient manner as we did last week before everything happened.”
“Imagine,” he said rhetorically to Sandra not wanting an answer, “what has transpired in just a week here in Lebanon. Life throws you many curves at times – huh?”
Steve remained silent as his thoughts raced through his mind the rest of the way home. Tomorrow would be different for sure.
Sandra was silent as she recounted in her mind all that had happened. She was concerned for the family.
Steve was up and ready to go early Monday morning. He went to the kitchen and proceeded to make a cup of coffee and then sat down in front of the TV to catch up on the news from the day before.
Surely he will hear about something else going on today besides the passing of his Mom and Dad. Seemed all that had been on the local news lately was the passing of his parents.
As the TV volume started to come up, Sandra came from the bedroom and made a cup of coffee. With her coffee in hand, she came over and kissed Steve on the top of his head. “Today’s the day – you got to go get em’,” she declared.
“Yep,” Steve responded placing his cup on the table and grabbing Sandra. He pulled her into his arms. She almost spilled her coffee.
“What would I do without you,” he wondered out loud. Sandra was his ‘go too’ every since they got married.
She smiled, “You would do just that; without – that is what you would do. No remarrying for you, Bud, should I die.”
“I don’t think I would want to – it took too long to get you where I wanted you to be,” Steve laughed.
He finished his coffee and went to the bathroom to start his shower. Going to work had to be done and putting if off was not going to help.
Sandra disappeared in the kitchen to prepare breakfast for Steve and the kids. Everything is back to normal or so it seemed to be. Losing Mom and Dad was never going to be normal in the Johnson household.
Walter and Dessie were indeed a large part of their lives, but now they must move on. She contemplated, “It would be the way Mom and Dad would want it to be.”
Steve arrived at the bank early and let himself in through the side door. It was his private entrance to the bank.
The side door was near his office and he used that door more than any other entrance as he could go in – go right through Sherry’s office and into his office without having to go into the lobby of the bank.
Sherry had gotten there before he did and already had his coffee sitting on her desk. He picked it up and noticed activity as the employees were arriving. He instructed Sherry as he went by her desk, “Call a meeting for everyone 5 minutes before opening.”
That would be enough time as he did not want to dwell on the obvious any longer than necessary. Then he remembered, “Say, what are you doing here? I told you to take a couple of days off.”
Letting that question go without answering, Sherry acknowledged his instructions. She gave him a Southern Crispy Crème doughnut to go with his coffee.
Steve sat down and proceeded to devour the doughnut. Southern Crispy Crème doughnuts were to die for he thought. “Oops wrong analogy under the circumstances,” he contemplated silently and amusing himself.
Steve would have to get with Sam to make some office changes. His office had always been near his Dad’s office and now he would need to move into his Dad’s office. Sherry’s office separated the two offices.
He could put Junior in his office and leave Sam where he was with a change of his title on his door. Or Sam could take the conference room next to his office and make his office the conference room – his choice.
That would give Junior easy access to discuss any loan projections, projects, or activity that needed both their input. It would help the open door policy he wanted with Junior.
Since Sam would continue working with the physical facilities, there was no need to change his office. He could go to the conference room if he so desired if he felt the task of making the move would not be too burdensome.
His was a suitable office on the opposite side of the lobby. It was the same size as Junior’s new office.
“It probably would not be a good idea for us to make the changes until after hours. People would be in and out of the bank during the day,” Steve reflected. “They would leave Dad’s office as is today as kind of a memorial statement prior to the change.”
Steve’s mind was always in tune with what was good for the bank, “And people would not go for Steve taking over before his Dad’s body got cold in the grave.”
There is so much to consider when you are working with people – especially when you want their confidence working with their money. Truly a thin line in the sand to follow.
Steve finished his coffee and doughnut and saw that the staff were gathering in the lobby of the bank. Sherry had informed everyone to attend. Only the receptionist was left out to answer any incoming phone calls.
Sam and Junior were in and they were talking to various members of the staff. They were expressing their thanks for all their support.
Steve stepped out and into their midst. The group got silent and gave Steve their full attention. “I don’t have to tell you what has transpired over the last few days is going to be monumental for the Bank and Lebanon. But I want business to be business as usual.”
Steve continued, “There will be changes and you will be notified of the changes as we move forward. It will not be necessary to announce our changes here with the exception that Sam is now the Executive Vice President of Operations. Junior is the new Executive Vice President of Loan Development.” There was an eruption of moderate clapping for the changes.
When the clapping died down, Steve, continued, “I am now the President and Chairman of the Board by virtue of a vote by the Board of Directors of the bank last Friday.”
He paused as a mild applause came from the staff. He then continued, “Thank you.”
exclaimed, “I also want to express my appreciation and on behalf of the
family to each of you for all you have done in picking up the slack over
these last few days. You are our
family and our loss is just as much your loss as it is ours. Thank you!
Sam and Junior thank you as well.” Sam and Junior acknowledged there appreciation by nodding.
Continuing, “Just remember that everyone who comes in today will want to express their condolences. As I said what happened last week will be huge for the Bank and for Lebanon.””
He commented, “Thank them and let them know that we appreciate each one of them – then see what you can do to help them. That will get us back on track as quickly as possible and on track is where we need to be quickly.”
Steve finished, “Other than that, go about your duties as you have always done and as a family we will get through this. Thank you again!”
Sherry said, “On behalf of the employees, Steve, Sam, and Junior, we are with you – we are family and we will pull together to make this work.” The staff again mildly expressed their sentiment by clapping.
Sherry then motioned each one back to their work stations. She went to the door to open for business.
Steve asked Sam and Junior to join him in the office. “Sam, I want to make changes with the offices but not during the banking hours. When we close today, move me into Dad’s office and Junior into my office.”
He speculated, “This will give Junior and me much the same position as I had with Dad for going over new projects. And for a while we will need to do that regularly.”
Steve continued without looking at Sam, “Sam, see if you can get the gold-leaf artist over today to start making the changes on the doors for the titles. That in itself will spell change to the community.”
Steve looked at Sam, “Also, look at the conference room on your side of the bank. It might suit you a little better. If you want to move your office into the conference room and make your old office the conference room that is fine. I will leave that decision up to you.”
He continued, “Try to get either some of bank guys or people you might know that you can bring in after hours to make these changes. Any questions?”
Sam answered, “No, I will get right on it. It will be done by order of business tomorrow. Junior, I can use your help if you don’t have something planned after we close.”
Junior responded, “No, I will need to get set up anyway so I should be here when we make the changes – whatever you need. I know a couple of guys that will be running around town with nothing to do – they might want to make some extra money.”
Sam said, “Go for it and keep me informed who, what, when, and where. I’ll be here for the duration of the move.”
To that began a new day for the Community Bank of Lebanon. People came and went, expressed their condolences; deposited money; withdrew money from their accounts; and requested loans as needed. The drive-thru was particular active during the morning hours. It was business as usual.
With the exception of the gold-leaf artist, nothing was changed, however, seeing the new titles go up on the doors was a subtle reminder that Walter and Dessie were indeed gone and gone forever.
The leftover food from Walter and Dessie’s home had been placed in the break room for the staff. There was still so much food left over and they wanted to share it with everyone.
They had a refrigerator in the break room for the leftover food and it could be kept until the next day. Although it looked like all of it would never be eaten – there was so much.
Steve had thought about asking the church if they wanted it for their homeless program, but Pastor Wilson said the way the food was prepared; it would not be practical.
Sam and Junior went to the country club for lunch to get away from the bank. Memories were still hard to live down.
Sandra came in at noon. She prepared a meal from the leftovers and and brought Steve his lunch to his office. Steve loved leftovers and dug right in.
John and Sarah joined them at the table in Steve’s office to enjoy spending time with their Mom and Dad before going back to school. Their flights were not until later in the afternoon.
“How are things going with Sam and Junior this morning?” Sandra inquired. Again the family ability to get along seemed to surge with Sandra.
“Fine, they seem really on board. I am moving Junior into this office; and I am taking Dad’s office. I am letting Sam decide if he wants the conference room converted for his office or stay where he is,” answered Steve.
He continued, “We have people coming in after hours to make the changes. Everything should be set up in the morning.”
Sandra, getting up to clean up the leftover food, responded, “Well maybe the worst is behind us and everything will level out as we go forward. I certainly hope so. We don’t need uncertainty right now.”
“John when is your flight back to A&M? I can take you to the airport if you need me. I am not going to start anything today that requires me to think beyond the end of my nose,” Steve laughed.
Sandra spoke up, “That would be great. I can go with you. We can see the kids off and we can eat out somewhere in Nashville.”
“Yeah, that will be a good idea,” said Steve, “Sarah can go with us to eat too since her flight back to Lexington doesn’t leave until later. We’ll drop John off and then go eat with Sarah. Is that OK with y’all?”
“Sounds good to me,” came back Sarah laughing because John would have to eat airplane food on the way to A&M. They left the bank to drive John and Sarah to the airport. John’s flight was at 2 and Sarah did not fly out until 5.
Sam and Junior arrived at the country club for lunch. After seeing several members of the club they knew and speaking to them; they settled down at a table out on the patio overlooking the golf course.
Sam picked up the menu and started trying to decide what he wanted. Lenny, his usual waiter, came over to take their order and they ordered a drink.
Sam took the club sandwich and Junior took the Rueben sandwich. He had been craving the sauerkraut for a week now.
Both wanted French fries even though their wives continually warned them against the fries – they got them anyway. “Healthy is as healthy does and today we do not,” laughed Sam.
Sam grumbled, “I don’t know how you eat that sandwich with the corn beef and sauerkraut. The smell is almost too much for me.”
Junior laughed, “I don’t ordinarily order it but from time to time it fits my palate. I have a ‘hankering’ for it. Today’s the day.”
It was a beautiful day. The sun was about as high in the sky as it would get before it began to settle for the afternoon.
Several were playing golf. Sam laughed as someone he could not identify hit a ball into the water and literally threw his club up in the air in disgust.
Over to the left, the tee for the 2nd hole was perpendicular with the incoming lane of traffic. An 18-wheeler had stopped at a red light.
The driver evidently noticed that there was someone who was about to tee off. At the precise moment when the golfer starter his swing, the 18-wheeler blew his air horn.
The golfer was distracted. He stumbled on his swing. The ball only went a few feet down the fairway from the tee.
You could see that 18-wheel driver laughing all the way past the tee. He knew what he had done as he had done it on purpose.
The golfer, however, was not amused and was swinging his club in the direction of the trucker. Such things that go on a sunny noon tee off time in Lebanon, Tennessee.
“This could not happen anywhere else but here,” as Sam laughingly shared with Junior what has just happened. Junior broke out laughing.
They were still laughing when Lenny brought their food. Sam was hungry. He grabbed the sandwich and took a big bite.
Junior more subdued – took his knife and fork and began to cut up the Rueben sandwich. He said that he always did this so that he could more evenly distribute the ingredients in the sandwich.
“Makes sense I guess,” thought Sam. “When I am hungry, I don’t want to take the time.”
Both grabbed a handful of fries and began to wash them down with their drink. With their stomachs now reaping the benefits of their actions with their sandwiches and fries, Sam became more serious as he looked down at his lunch.
“Junior, how much of this are you going to take before you break away from here?” he asked. “We both know that Steve will be the President and Chairman of the Board for as long as he wants and that could be 25 to 30 years.”
“You could wind up being a glorified loan officer for 30 or more years. After that you would have little to nothing to look forward to. ”
Junior, realizing this conversation had to happen at some juncture. It seemed out of the ordinary right now, however, he felt uncomfortable opening up with his Dad.
He responded, “Dad, I listen; I think; and I plan. June knows as well as I do that this is not the best saturation for me. She’s knows that I will be held back and never reach my full potential at the Bank.”
“Not that Uncle Steve will do it on purpose,” said Junior, “it will just be the standard operating procedure. The Bank can operate with junior officers. He does not need Executive VPs.”
“But, it is something I am going to have to live with until I can come up with another way out. What about you?” asked Junior.
Sam laid his sandwich down, “I always thought I would follow in Dad’s footsteps and move right along with the bank. I have never given much thought to anything else, but now – it’s different.”
Explaining, “What do I do? First – for the next 6 months; I am going to do nothing but my job. In the process, I am going to be looking for another venture that I might get into that will be more rewarding.”
“Money is not my goal,” continued Sam. “All of us are going to have all the money we will need for the immediate future and who knows exactly how long that can be.”
He stated, “The country might go bust; war might breakout; acts of God like the Joplin tornado; or Katrina in New Orleans – who knows. There is a lot to be considered. My concern for the next 6 months will be keeping my head down; doing my job; and observe all that goes on around me.”
Referencing his wife and Junior’s mother, “Joan is not going to like it either, but she will just have to get used to it. Until I have a plan it is as it is.”
Junior countered, “Well all I know right now is banking. It is what I have always wanted to do and this should have been my chance – but as you say – things happen.”
Junior continued, “Some of my clients – you know Otis who owns the Chick-fil-a franchise; Joe with Meinke Motors; and even Brett the comptroller at the lumber mill – we have kicked around different ideas in the past as a way of passing the time.”
Continuing, “It was suggested that Lebanon might need another bank or credit union. Some even thought that could be my role in life to move in that direction.”
Junior said, “I just don’t know right now. Probably be the best for me to follow your lead and just do my job for the next 6 months and see what falls out of the woodwork.”
They finished their lunch. After having a couple of drinks at the bar and laughing with some friends, they went back to the bank.
Junior arranged to have a couple of guys come in to change the desks around and to move personal effects to the new office set-up. Sam hung around to arrange his pictures on the wall in the conference room and to show where he wanted his files to go.
His was a new set-up completely since previously the space had been used as a conference room. He gave instructions as well on setting up the new conference room that had previously been his office.
Junior arranged Steve’s office as he would have wanted it knowing that Steve could change it later if he wanted. Steve had told him where he wanted most of the furniture and tables.
Walter and Dessie’s large portrait was placed on the wall in the lobby with a small table underneath. They had some of Dessie’s favorite crocheted work and displayed it on the table. The book from the Memorial Service would be added when it was completed. For the time being they placed the sign-in books from the Memorial Service on the table.
Everything looked homey when they finished. The décor of the bank was restored.
One thing Walter always wanted was for the bank to look like a place you could come in; sit down; visit with your friends; and conduct business as if you were in your own home.
All was competed in a couple of hours and Junior left with the boys to get a beer. The changes were completed and the new bank would open again in the morning with a new setting.
Sam went directly home from the bank after arranging his office. Joan met him at the door with a drink and asked, “Well how did it go? Any surprises?”
Sam countered, “No, other than Steve said I could take the conference room for my office if I wanted. He moved Junior into his old office and he took Dad’s office. I set up my office before leaving so I will be ready for business in the morning.”
“Question is,” dug in Joan, “what is ‘your business’ now? You and I both know that when Walter moved you into the operations of the bank several years ago that there was a possibility you could succeed him when he retired or this worse-case scenario.”
Sam responded, “Don’t start on me Joan. Now is not the time.”
He explained, “Junior and I went out to lunch today. Both of us agreed that for the next 6 months we are going to do our job, but at the same time start looking around for other possibilities.”
He finished, “Steve might find himself running the bank as the only Johnson family member. At least until John finishes school since he will be the only eligible one available. And he will probably join Steve then if he does not go into the NFL.”
“Any ideas about what you might be looking for?” asked Joan. She was not going to let it go now; or the foreseeable future.
That was Joan and she pressed, “There are things like car dealerships. You know we only have the Ford dealership now. Maybe a GM dealership to compete with Ford would be needed.”
“With your banking connections, you would be a perfect position for arranging financing for those that want new cars or trucks,” pursued Joan. “You could do it.
“Joan,” interrupted Sam, “I said now is not the time. There will be plenty of time to observe what is going on in Lebanon or who knows in a larger city like Nashville.”
He continued, “For the moment, I want to get by Mom’s and Dad’s death. Get a handle on what Steve is going to do; and watch what Junior does.”
Joan knew that she could only push so far. She felt it better to let it go for the moment, but it was not over.
She went into the kitchen to start preparing dinner. They could come back to this later on another day. “It was not over,” she concluded.
Junior went home after a couple of beers with his friends. June was in the back room and did not hear him come in.
He walked back toward the kitchen and called her name as he got a beer from the refrigerator. June came up from the back room, “Oh, I didn’t hear you come in. How was your day?”
“So-so – nothing new at the bank,” answered Junior, “other than we set up the offices for tomorrow. I am getting Uncle Steve’s old office.”
He explained, “He is moving into Granddaddy’s office and Dad is converting the conference room for his office since it is larger. He is making his old office into the conference room.”
Finishing, “I had a couple of guys come in after we closed for business and we made the changes. We then went out for a couple of beers.”
He finished, “We enlarged the lobby when I moved out and we placed Granddaddy and Grandmother’s portrait on the wall with a table underneath displaying some of her favorite handiwork.”
He went on, “There will be other items placed there such as the book from the Memorial Service. It is a personal touch that I know Grandmother would have loved.”
“OK, that is that. Now what about Uncle Steve and the new organizational structure? Will there be any major changes there with you,” asked June.
Junior said, “For now, no. But who knows as we get into business deals that I want to execute and he rejects them. You know he has not always agreed with me on making some loans or even some investments. We will just have to wait and see.”
He continued, “Went to lunch with Dad and I don’t get the impression Joan is happy with what went down either. A lot of it is just my impression of his comments today, and what she said yesterday.”
He jumped in about the land that he was going to get, “I am not going to lose that land, however, and she will just have to learn to live with it. The town is moving north as it grows and there is money to be made at some point there.”
Junior continued, “Dad said that we need to just do our job for at least 6 months. Watch what transpires and decide when the time is right or comes.”
June had started dinner preparing spaghetti and meatballs. Cutting up the lettuce for a salad, she countered, “That’s probably good advice. At least within 6 months, you will have some idea what is going to happen for the next 6 years or so with Uncle Steve.”
She exclaimed, “You know he likes to keep everything the same. He is hesitant to jump out against the grain like Granddaddy was.” They sat down to dinner.
“June, we have not discussed this lately, but have you given any more thought to having children,” inquired Junior. “Before you answer, I am not asking or even pushing the idea, I just want our marriage to be what you want it to be.”
He continued, “Losing Grandmother and Granddaddy like we did makes me realize how short life really can be. I think I would like children and would like to have children of my own but I want it to be a decision that we make together. It is not a break or bend issue with me.”
June was silent for a moment then spoke, “Where is this coming from? I thought we had agreed to not have children.”
Junior replied, “Yeah, I know we agreed to come back to it again at a later date and this might be the later date. At the beginning we said we would discuss it later.”
He explained, “You know they say 35 – 40 is the max time you want to wait to have children. If we are firmly against having children, then we need to once and for all put this to rest.”
June being caught totally off guard by the turn of events, declared, “I don’t know at my age if I am ready to get into the diaper business. And for sure I don’t want to get into the breast feeding business. I guess that is my answer.”
Junior, seeing his opportunity to bail on the conversation said, “Well let’s just take the next 6 months to deal with that also. You can read up on it online.”
“I am going to leave it entirely up to you as you know you will be the one most responsible for soccer practice; school; and all the paraphernalia that goes along with it,” Junior admitted.
“I get to stand back and glory in what they do to make me proud.” Junior laughed. June laughed back at his humor and the subject matter was dropped.
“Yeah, I got your stand back and glory. If we have children – you will be up front and center in that,” laughed June.
The next day the bank got down to business. The tellers were taking drive-thru customers and the inside junior officers were working various loan arrangements.
And they were making calls following up on previous transactions. The normal course of banking was to keep the flow headed in the right direction at all times.
One thing about having a bank in Lebanon, everyone knew everyone and most knew everyone’s business. If someone was having a hard time, families would pull together to help or friends would have fundraisers to help with expenses.
It was not unusual for several fundraisers each month to help some deserving family with an unintended emergency. Whatever the cause – people would come together to help.
Just 2 weeks ago, a BBQ plate fundraiser luncheon was conducted for a family that had lost a loved one in Afghanistan. He had been on a military patrol when an IED hit his vehicle.
He was a young man with a lot of potential. He left his wife with one small child and enormous amount of uncertainty about the future.
The government got involved financially with the funeral expenses, but the family lost more than just money. They lost a provider for years to come.
As Sam was sitting in his office watching folks going thru the drive-thru making donations for the family, he thought, “One of these days a politician is going to see the benefit of helping our soldiers who are wounded or killed in action and their families.”
“The Wounded Warrior program and others like it do good work, but it should not be left to these nonprofit organizations to provide support for our soldiers wounded or killed while serving in defense of our country. The country should.”
Sam was concerned, “It should be the duty of the government for whom they served. But until then, some nonprofits will gather funds where a large portion goes to the leadership of the organization as opposed to helping veterans.”
He wondered, “How do they choose anyway who they will help in the first place.” His mind remained on the same course.
“Seems a monumental task to me,” thought Sam. He was not keen on donations in the first place unless he could see where the actual dollars were going.
Many things disturbed Sam, but the direction of the bank and his life were foremost in his mind. He had to get a handle on it and he had set a time limit of 6 months to do it.