I wanted to write a mini-biography about my Dad for his birthday today but found this instead. I wrote it back in 2005, back when I was writing more often. Not sure what made me write it, but I found it in an old, half-written-in journal and immediately knew it was a better epitaph than any I could write now.
Coming from somewhere, perhaps across the bayou, is the sound of large metal banging together. I am reminded of my father’s welding job he held throughout most of my childhood – at the sound, I am instantly transported back to the doorway of Hogan Manufacturing in Escalon, California.
The building was huge and towering, nestled in the downtown area of the small and quiet town. The building encompasses and entire city block and it’s huge doors were always imposing to me as a child. A step inside lead to a world colored by yellow sparks and flames, contrasted by the black metal and orchestrated by men like my father – hardworking men in dirty coveralls with permanent stains and blackened hands. There was little need for foremen: each man knew his job, his duty, and they toiled from start to finish without too much complaint. They had large, powerful toolboxes full of testosterone and adrenaline, with smudge marks on the drawer handles that led to screwdrivers and wrenches. A closer look, however, reveals the tender side – a steel flower, molded for a wife. A picture of the family. A row of school pictures that seemed to encompass the lid of the toolbox. A clever, yet cheesy sticker about Real Men Loving Jesus. All of these things, these tender and sappy memoirs of the soul of a man, stood as a reminder of why he toiled. Why he worked.
It is rarely for pure love of a job that we show up. It’s also duty, obligation. But most of all, love. Love for the small boy who loves guns and time with Dad. Love for the one who can’t get enough books to read. Love for the prodigal, who we never lose hope for. It is the true essence of who he was. There on the toolbox was a piece of his soul, adhered with double-sided sticky tape. The pictures stood as a reminder when the hours were long and weary.
Perhaps I’ve poeticized an ordinary man working an ordinary job for an ordinary family. But isn’t that what life is all about? Aren’t we all, in our own way, poets? Out to make the most of our ordinary lives?