You ever play the “What If?” game? Of course you have. We all have. It can be either cathartic and masochistic depending on the situation, to ponder what might have been.
Masochistic: What if… I didn’t eat those 4 double-cheeseburgers with extra cheese and fried onions and gravy fries?
Cathartic: What if… I had taken that job with that company that just went under rather than the one I did choose?
And by all means, the “What If?” game is not only for the little people…
John McCain… “What if I hadn’t chosen Sarah Palin to be my Veep?”
Michael Phelps… “What if I hadn’t smoked that bong?”
Today, my 4 brothers, our sister and I collectively and figuratively played the “What If?” game.
What If… our father, way back in 1950, decided to pursue a position with this one particular organization… instead of the path he ultimately chose?
How incredibly different ALL of our lives would be today had he chosen one career path over another.
Here’s the story…
Our father Joseph Olenski, Sr. worked for 40+ years in the A&P supermarket chain, becoming a high-ranking VP of something or other during his tenure. All of my brothers, sister and yours truly ALL cut our working teeth in the supermarket world. Many of us would eventually even meet our significant others while working in a supermarket.
BUT… and here’s where the “What If?” comes into play…
What if our father had decided to pursue a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Yeah, the FBI… G-Men, Feds, all that…
The story goes that in 1950 our father was recruited out of college for the FBI because of his military history and background — he was an MP during World War II and a recent college graduate.
We’re not sure if he ever went through training with the FBI, but we do know that their first assignment for him was due to the fact he spoke Polish — the FBI wanted him to move up to the coal mine areas of Pennsylvania, specifically the Scranton area. The fear at that time was that communists were infiltrating the coal miners and they wanted someone from the FBI to go undercover there. Since our Dad spoke Polish fluently, he was selected. The story goes that when he told his mother (our grandmother) of this assignment she talked him out of going. He was accepted into the FBI, but simply choose not to go.
So why was it today my 4 brothers, our sister and I collectively and figuratively played the “What If?” game?
It’s because of a letter (see below) my brother Michael uncovered recently and shared with all of us today. It was a letter signed (not stamped, but signed) by the head of the FBI at the time — you know who I mean — and by the looks of it, it sure sounds like our father never bothered to inform them of his decision.
So my brothers, sister and I now wonder, how incredibly different our lives would have been had our father joined the FBI and NOT the A&P. Quite the disparity in career paths, huh?!
My brother Joe today reminded us of a quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Seems in 1950 life was happening all around our father and his plans didn’t include the FBI.
So… what about you? How does the “What If?” game affect you? What examples, life-changing or otherwise, do you have of the “What If?” game?
Here’s the full letter.. PLUS I also cropped out the top and body separately for better readability. Click on each file to enlarge.