TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mike Flowers, 59, learned a lesson from his parents as a boy: Get up and get going every day, no matter what.
The message stuck in a serious way, and Flowers is now retiring after a 35-year career as a police officer without ever having taken a sick day.
Flowers, a captain who oversees the Tuscaloosa Police Department's east precinct and tactical team, will work his last shift Friday without ever giving in to a queasy stomach, a sniffle or an achy body. He's never awakened, hit the alarm and gone back to sleep just because he didn't want to go to work.
It all goes back to childhood, he said.
"My mother always made me get up and go to school. Other than having the measles in the first grade I didn't miss any school days, either," said Flowers.
As astounding as Flowers' record might seem in a country where a 2013 study by PwC found the average worker takes about five sick days a year, Flowers doesn't see it as a big deal. He's just gone to work, perhaps with the assistance of good fortune and heredity.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Flowers joined the Tuscaloosa Police Department on Oct. 4, 1980. His first serious brush with missing a day came when he was a motorcycle officer around 1984.
"I had a motorcycle wreck one time where I had to have my ... my arm in a splint for about a week. But back in the '80s you were allowed to come to work with a splint on your arm. So I came to work and I rode my motorcycle with a splint on my arm," Flowers said.
Flowers, who began receiving promotions in 1992, said his closet call with a sick day came about five years ago when his gall bladder ruptured the day before one of his sons wed.
"I had to have emergency surgery. So I missed his wedding but I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any work," he said. "Fortunately our police department has a light duty policy and I was able to come back to work."
With retirement, Flowers plans to get a boat and spend more time on Alabama's Gulf Coast. He said he's getting out of law enforcement at a good time given the increasing danger that officers face on the street, but he's going to miss friends and co-workers at the office.
"One of the things I can say about this job is that I enjoy doing this or I wouldn't have done it for 35 years," he said.