Friday, April 07, 2006

The Rest is Silence

Dad had a heart attack on January 2nd and died from another on January 12th, a month and a half after his 53rd birthday & just before #2 Grandson's 2nd birthday. No one really saw the bomb ticking: stress, long hours, 3-4 packs a day, the poor diet (Dad never was overweight but had extremely high blood pressure).

The rest of that winter was cold and grey...one of the coldest winters ever (not according to the weather service but that's the way I remember it). The sun didn't shine much until about June. I worked 80-100 hour weeks for the next year...week after week...month after month, no hope, not knowing what the future held, not really caring. Mom took over the Business along with Brother. While they fumbled around in the dark trying to get a handle on everything I abandoned all thought of returning to school and worked.

And worked. And worked. I couldn't help them much with running The Business because I was "ignorant...didn't know any better...what does a 21-year-old child know"? So, I worked...and learned. I learned: that you CAN work 197 days in a row without a day off and still be standing; that the human body CAN survive on convenience store food and stale hot dogs & nachos; what it meant to crawl your way through the days and to just survive. I had already learned that hard work can kill you, now I learned how it can bury you alive.

I didn't learn how to fight. I already knew how anyway. Don't we all learn that growing up and being teenagers? Besides, what was I going to fight? Life, circumstances, the Devil, God? It wasn't God that made Dad work like he did, or smoke like he did, or not take care of himself. Those were his choices. He told me so himself that day a lifetime before in December. He once told me why he wouldn't quit smoking: "Look, I don't drink and I don't chase women. I think those are the 2 big ones so leave me alone."

One big misconception, though was the whole "boss' son" thing. I'd hear "Oh, you've got it made" "You get to do whatever you want" "You just tell everyone else what to do" "I'll bet you get all your stuff free". Right. In our world being one of the family meant you worked harder than anyone else to set the example. You were first in and last out. You didn't get paid until everyone else did. You never took something without paying for it. You never lost your temper with anyone. You were servant to your employees and to your customers. And, I wouldn't have had that part any other way. That was Dad's way of doing business.

I also didn't learn how to be angry (already knew that, too). I was lucky. I have seen many people in similar situations get extremely angry and bitter...like Lt. Dan in Forest Gump. They sink into a "dungeon of black despair" -- of bitterness & rage and become lost. I was spared that...that time. I didn't hate God or life or anything or anybody. I knew that how I reacted was my choice...I could choose what to do with my life, I didn't have to stay and work in The Business (no matter what kind of guilt trip was laid down), I chose that path because I cared about Mom and Brother and wanted to do my part...whatever they decided that was. Even though I wasn't bitter I was lost for some time and didn't realize what was going on around me. I have a hard time even now remembering allot of the details of those long days. Guess my mind has blocked some of it out.

Then, something wonderful happened around the first of June...I met my future wife.

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