When I was kid my dad was adamant about my posture, work ethic, and manners. I was put to work in a hot warehouse when I just turned 13. My mom told him how little I was trying in school.
She shipped me off to live with him for a month. He worked seven days a week. While I was there they paid me $100 for two weeks worth of work.
I worked until mid day then ate a peanut butter sandwich, then went back at it. “There is always something to do.” He always said when I told him there was nothing to do. For an hour I stocked wood and tile in the specific way that he asked it to be stacked.
“Dad I’m done. What’s next?” I said. Surprisingly to my 13 year old mind he didn’t just take my word for it. “Let’s take a look.” He said. He evaluated my work and said, “good, but straighten these out better. Then you move on to the next task.” I organized the store inventory, the warehouse, the shed, the truck. All of it. Each time if it wasn’t to his liking I did it again.
I was wearing a light grey shirt it was turned dark grey by my sweating. It was 117 degrees. The warehouse was brick and retained heat. My back hurt. My hands were sore. The sun burned my skin. Giving me the complexion of a tomato.
“What do you think?” He asked me. I gave an honest answer. “It’s hard, and my hands are callused.” He laughed from the pit of his stomach. “Those are the hands of a man.” He chuckled. I knew an 8 hour lecture was on it’s way. “It is hard work and its not a life I want for you. But it is an honest living.” He continues. “I dropped out when I was in 9th grade. So this is the only way I know how to earn the kind of money I make. After a while your body breaks down then you’re fucked. I want you to work hard in school and go to college. That way you won’t have to work so hard when you’re my age.” I learned a great lesson this summer that always lingers in my mind.
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