The Guy in the Back
Someone posted a Father's Day prompt to list something you remember your dad always said as you were growing up. This prompt, obviously, is intended to draw out the sage advice offered or the quirky little sayings for which dads are known. My dad didn’t talk a lot within our family unit as I was growing up. No conversations for conversation-sake or prattle to fill silence. He spoke loudest and wisest through his example in how he treated others. As I was older, he might tell a funny story if it was just him and me in the car. He did remind me to remember people's names, which I don't. He predicted computers and buffets would trigger the fall of society because we would be lazy and fat and here we are. But, he was not a stand-out talker in a crowd, not boisterous or attention-getting. He was thought of as a funny guy, a quiet cut-up liked by most.
He was probably the guy in the back of the class making wise-cracks only loud enough for the classmate in front of him to hear.
During my lifetime with him, he owned his own trucking company and also drove a truck for it. He worked a lot. It was his hobby, his pastime, his job and his career. He handled the overarching needs of the family, but the details of such were left to my mom. He was on the road most of the time and even missed my high school graduation because he was driving on a job. Honestly, I didn’t think much about it because that’s just kind of how it was. Of course, he was working so that he could pay for my college and help me avoid student loans, and that was the type of work that he chose.
He was a natural teacher (and he was a teacher for a while), but I don't remember any particular advice besides “hold the clutch." The only thing I really remember with consistency is he would say to my mom "Don't mess the kitchen up, let's go get a hamburger (at Dub’s)" sometimes when they arrived home from work. My mom was his number one employee at the company and his manager at home. He relied on her heavily from all angles of life. When he was not on the road and they got home from work late in the evening, he would often say "Don't mess the kitchen up, let's go get a hamburger." Now, I know that seems like a pretty benign comment, so why would it make such an impression on me.
My parents worked until about 5 in the evening or so. Wendy and I rode the bus home, let ourselves in, made our own snack, watched TV or pretended to do homework until our parents or mom got home. When they arrived, Daddy knew that she had worked a full day just as he had. He didn’t want her to have to prepare a full meal and clean up a kitchen all before going to bed and waking up to do it all over again. Granted, he could have pitched in or maybe taken turns, and I’m pretty sure Wendy and I would have been happy to eat crackers and cereal, but either he didn’t know how to cook anything — which is very possible — or he just simply didn’t want to do it after working all day either. He was cognizant of her value to him and what she did for his family. So, I get the feeling that, though she would have done so without thought, he felt it an injustice. And, this is in the late 70s/early 80s, before eating out was so prevalent. So, out of respect for her and all that she did for him, he would often say after work, “Don’t mess the kitchen up, let’s go get a hamburger.”
So, it’s not the life-guiding mantra other people may remember from their own dads. But, it revealed so much to me.