The Heart Of This ManMy father worked. He built the roof that was over my head. He put the food in the refrigerator. He was not always there when I wanted him, but he was there when I needed him. He did not coach little league or basketball. I learned from him by example, sitting in the garage as he fixed the car or over the sink handing him tools. ‘His’ time was the five minutes he took after diner to smoke a cigarette about every 6 weeks when his rotating shift allowed him to be home on Sunday at dinner time.
Overtime, double shifts in the refinery that Tony Soprano passes at the start of each show. I worked there a few summers as a laborer. Sulfur smell, pipes filled with steam blowing off at random intervals; even weeds could not grow there. Dante’s vision of hell could not capture this. One night, 8 hours after his second double shift, he headed into work for his next, 11 to 7. Exhausted from 16 hours and trying to sleep at 3pm while the family was active, he made a left into the refinery. He did not see the warning lights and there was no railroad gate. The freight train hit the front end of his Chrysler centered on the passenger wheel. Spun him around and ran over the back. He got out, and went to work.
I watched him, leave those factory gates as I picked him up and dropped him off for two weeks until we got the insurance money. Straight, strong, defiant he walked, work clothes rolled in a towel.
I’ve worked since I was 13, knife and wrench scars on my hands, a burn mark on my back from the steam lines at that same refinery. Work…more than that… it’s the ability to provide… that is at the heart of a man. It defines him… it defines me. Amorphous is the rest of my life, shrouded in mist and mystery… where I will live… who will stand by me? The constant is work and the ability to provide the water and soil from which life grows. It is the sun … as I am the son…. of my father. It is at the heart of this man.