I grew up in a low income household. While many in America would have people believe that this dooms a person to poverty, my father had a different idea.
“Give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”
“Don’t take public assistance if you aren’t doing everything you can to earn your own money.”
“Go to college, and you will never have to worry about being poor.”
“Do more than expected, and you will always be appreciated.”
“No one ever gets paid what they’re worth. The best you can do is walk away with the pride of a job well done.”
This was my father.
When he was a little boy, he had an ear infection that left him with reduced hearing. He dropped out of school when he was eight so that he could take care of the family farm. His father was a drunk who spent more time and effort “carousing” than he did with the farm. So my father took responsibility. He was drafted for the Korean War and did his service, mostly in the South Pacific doing “bomb testing”. This reduced even more of his hearing.
When he got out of the military, he met my mother, got married, and had four kids. Given his lack of education and poor hearing, his options were limited. He worked on farms in exchange for milk. He worked hourly jobs when he could. One of those jobs was working the assembly line that made shipping crates for motorcycles and other large items. Thanks to that job, he picked up a splinter in his thumb, which became infected and required amputation of the tip of the thumb.
He was working that job one day when he suddenly felt dizzy. His vision blurred. He stepped away from the line and sat down. Someone came to help him to the clinic there. No one there could help him. He eventually felt “well enough” to make the 45 minute drive home, though why anyone allowed him to get into a car when he was obviously not well is beyond anyone’s logic. He didn’t call anyone from home to come and get him because he didn’t want to be a bother.
He could not return to work until he had seen a doctor, so he went in for tests. The doctors eventually gave him the diagnosis… Multiple sclerosis. At the time, they gave him six months to live. I was fourteen. Fortunately, he was a stubborn man. He lived long enough to not only walk me down the aisle when I was 26, he lived long enough to hold my child when I was 30. He passed away almost 15 years ago.
I still miss him every day.
I wish he was here for me to ask him if he really believed all of those lessons that he told me. Or was that his way of convincing himself that his children could have a better life than he had?