Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Dirty, Hardworking Daddy

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my growing up days. I’ve been reflecting on my hard working parents and all of the time and energy they gave to raising the three of us and trying their hardest to do it as well as they could with what they had in their arsenal of parental tools and tricks.

On this note of yesteryear, here’s a brief introduction to my dad as I remember him in my early years.

My father is a roofer. He has been a roofer almost his whole adult life—since he was about 21. He has only ever known hard, physical work. Before he was a roofer, he tried being a line worker at Chrysler—like his father before him—but he could not stomach working for the man. So he went to work for another kind of man, the roofing man. And then he eventually started his own roofing company; he still owns and runs this company in these thin and trying economic times.

As a kid, I remember my dad as a dirty man in the evenings. He was covered in soot and tar and asphalty stuff when he came home from work. And then he would take a shower and be refreshed, but there was always this sort of everlasting grit ground into his skin. His pick up truck stank of acrid tar-paper and hot tar and sweat and burnt things and dust. I remember longing to run my hands over the well-worn steering wheel and drive for hours with my dad to some far off destination just the two of us alone hanging out and talking. I wanted to go to Tigers’ games with him, sans sisters, in his truck and somehow catch the hard-working smell of his skin and hold it for always.

Dirty dad in his pick up

He provided for us. He used his hands until they were cracked and rough to cover other people’s houses and businesses and keep them from rain and wind and snow. He burned his nose over and over again in the blazing sun till it bubbled with infection and is probably now a fertile ground for cancer.

He worked 6 or 7 days a week—and he still does. And he always said to us use your minds not your hands to make a living. I find it funny sometimes that I was the only one who really listened. Both of my sisters went to beauty school; I’m the only one who went to university. They both use their hands to make a living. While they do not have to weather the elements and haul bundles of shingles or torch down or weld specialized products to roofs, they do use their hands day after day to earn money. And they work hard and long hours.

the injector with her dad as a kid

We all do. My father gave each of us the gift of knowing how to work hard. None of us have ever been slackers. I had my first job at age 15. I worked at the hockey rink concession stand. And then I worked at Keck’s Hardware—I was the first girl to ever work there. And then I worked for my dad for a few summers. And I acquired the smell of sun and sweat and tar skin.

And while I use my mind mostly to do my work, I pedal hard to get to work. I use my body to transport myself there and it is often my most favorite time of the day—riding in the sun and my beating heart pumping fast and hard. And then my next favorite time of the day is coming home from my paid work and working in the soil with my hands, digging deep and hard and being dirty even after a shower and cooking food for my darling and tearing shit apart when she asks me to do so and cleaning and scrubbing our house to make it feel good and comfy. Daddy did you know you taught us well? We all three know how to make it pretty damn okay in the world. We all know how to work hard and long and still grow our families well.


Anonymous said...

My dad was a roofer for a little while. One day my mom washed his work clothes with mine and ruined my Care Bear night gown. It was an angry, sad day. Very glad he settled on painting.

andrea said...

that's great, i love the old photos. way to honor your parents. think spring, for me! love, andrea

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