It was Early

When I was in high school, asleep in my childhood bed, I would hear the alarm go off in the room across the hall.

It might have been 5 am.

I’m not sure.

It was early, though.

It was earlier than most of the other alarms in the neighborhood.

My father would leap out of bed, grab his lunch pail, and rush out to the car.

I would listen to the Oldsmobile turn over, hesitantly, reluctantly.

But, sooner or later, it would.

And, he would go to work and stand behind a machine all day long.

When I was home from college, asleep in my childhood bed, I would hear the alarm go off in the room across the hall.

It might have been 4:45 am.

I’m not sure.

It was early, though.

He would get out of bed, slowly, and make his way to the kitchen and the coffee pot.

I would listen to him use the walls of the hall for support along the way.

But, sooner or later, he would fill his thermos full.

And, he would go to work and stand behind a machine all day long.

When I was visiting home from graduate school, asleep in my childhood bed, I would hear the alarm go off in the room across the hall.

It might have been 5:05 am.

I’m not sure.

It was early, though.

He would cough.

He would cough.

And, he would cough.

But, sooner or later, he would will himself out of bed.

I would listen to the banisters moan and the floorboards groan as he took each step down the stairs and out of the house one foot at a time.

And, he would go to work and stand behind a machine all day long.

He rarely missed a day of work.

There were years when he did not miss a day at all.

Tired?

Weary?

Under the weather?

It did not matter.

Snow?

Sleet?

Freezing rain?

It did not matter.

He went to work.

I’ve been a professor for twelve years and I have had one sick day.

There’s only one part of that statement that gives me a deep and honest and true sense of pride.

But, I know, it’s not fair to compare.

I do not stand behind a machine all day long.

Some may call that progress.

I’m not so sure anymore.

He had these hands.

They were thick, leathered, and enveloping.

He had a grip.

He had a handshake.

If you get a chance, shake my Uncle Mike’s hand today and you’ll know what I am talking about. Or, shake the hand of another man or woman who forges reality with their two hands.

This room is full of them.

I will never have those hands, that grip or that kind of handshake.

Grandiose gestures…

They are not what we carry with us as sons and daughters.

It’s the everyday things – the routines, patterns and habits of our parents.

These things…they seep into our souls while were asleep.

Anyways, my family, we didn’t do grandiose.

We could not afford it.

And, on those rare occasions when we thought we could – like a vacation to Gatlinburg or a visit to see family in Florida – I learned to never take my shoes off until we arrived at our desired destination. Because, sooner or later, that Oldsmobile would ask us to get out and start pushing.

My father gave me a work ethic.

Every.

Single.

Day.

At…

5 am?

4:45 am?

5:05 am?

I’m not sure.

But, it was early.

 

Postscript: After a brief battle with stage 4 cancer, we buried our father in Ohio on July 8, 2016. These are the words I spoke.

css.php