From the Braver Institute
Last year I had written quite frequently about my dad, and after he passed I decided that I needed to take a break and let myself come to terms with the loss of him. Overall I think I have done pretty well, though I have a feeling the pain will never really go away. I am sure that the way I deal with it will just change.
In my house I have subtle reminders of my father. Years ago he gave me his old pocket watch for my birthday. It hangs from a hook on my wall along with the watch my mom wore when I was a child. Nearby on a nail is a steel silhouette of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. My dad made it when he was in high school. I seem to recall him saying that it was Red Ryder, but there is no way to tell. On the same nail is a miniature breadboard—most likely a sample from Munising Wood Products— that he signed his name to for some reason. There were countless Munising samples around our house when I was growing up, but why he signed his name to this I will never know. My mom worked for Munising Wood Products, but my dad never did. My dad used to sign his name a lot—just doodling I guess. That is probably why it is on the breadboard.
I’m getting sidetracked, but that’s nothing new.
Across the room I have a clock. It looks like the kind you might see in a classroom. It is nothing special, and it was probably cheap. It is the only clock to be found in my house. It too was my dad’s, and it hung in his office, which was actually the basement of my parent’s house. His office was the command center from where he controlled his business empire—a little courier service he provided for hospitals (and anyone else) that needed small parcels delivered locally and quickly. A fitting retirement career for a former truck driver.
At one time he had several delivery routes, and a few employees (I was one) to help with them. His little company delivered appliances for a local retailer, he hauled goods for a regional auto parts chain, he hauled pharmaceuticals, he hauled movie reels, he hauled...
...sorry, I’m getting sidetracked again.
Where was I? Oh, the clock. Well, I have to fill in a little more back story. My dad wasn’t really what you might consider generous, or kind, or thoughtful. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t the opposite of these things either, but he wasn’t the kind of person that other people would call the nicest guy in the world, the way they do when talking about someone who is over the top nice to everyone around them. He was not gregarious. My dad was more reserved.
Anyway, my dad had given a job to a guy who was perhaps one of the roughest looking people I had ever seen. I don’t mean rough in a big, tough-guy way, I mean rough in the million-miles of bad road way. His hair was wild and everywhere. He may have had a tooth or two in his mouth, but I’m not sure of that. He looked like he always needed a shave. He was one of those poor souls who would still look haggard with a forty dollar haircut, a manicure, and a new suit of clothes. This guy had been dealt a raw deal by life. His appearance alone made it hard for him to find work, and there was precious little that he could do to improve those odds.
For some reason my dad put him on one of his routes. I am not sure which one it was—maybe appliances—but it would have been one where there wouldn’t be a lot of interaction with people. I think my dad felt sorry for the guy, and at the same time really needed someone who would do this hitor miss, part-time delivery job. It wasn’t an everyday thing, and even when there was hauling, it may be only one stop that day. It certainly wasn’t enough work to pay enough money to live on.
I think that somewhere along the line my dad decided that he had to let this guy go because he just wasn’t the kind of person the appliance dealer wanted representing them to the customer. I could be wrong. Maybe he just found another job.
One day, a year or two later, this guy showed up again at my parents house. He stopped by to visit my dad. He had brought the clock which now hangs on my wall with him. It may or may not have been gift-wrapped, I don’t recall, but it was new in its box. He wanted to give it to my dad. It was a thank you gift. He was so grateful to my father for giving him a chance at a job when no one else would, and for some reason this clock was what he wanted my dad to have as a token of his appreciation. Maybe it was all he could afford. Maybe it was something he had laying around his house—a gift from someone else that he had never used.
Every time I look at that clock I think of the kindness of my father. A level of kindness that few people knew was in him. I am glad that he let a little of it out to the world now and then.
Happy birthday dad.
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