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Getting existentialist about Father's Day
June 14, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
This whole Father’s Day thing turns me philosophical more and more as the years pass since my father died.
It’s been seven Father’s Days since we had him for a Father’s Day, and it never gets easier.
Though this year, I have something to focus my attention with the impending marriage of The Drummer to the soon to be not Future Daughter-In-Law but Real Daughter-In-Law. (Go figure it out. Wedding is in about 14 weeks, give or take.
It’s an over-worn phrase but it’s a true one that every father hopes his kids will be a little better off than he was.
And, though my generation is going to fall backwards without retirement as America slides into becoming comfortable with its Third World Banana Republic status, my son might just be doing OK.
Given the overpriced state of rentals (if you don’t think this drilling boom is having an impact, try to find a decent, affordable apartment in our area), the equation for soon-to-be-newlyweds has changed from where it was 28 years ago for me and The Boss. Instead of renting for a few years, it’s actually worth more and possibly more affordable to jump right out of the box with the “starter” house. I put that in quotes because after 23 years, La Casa Pablo is my first and last one. I’m either going to die with it hanging around my neck like an undervalued and overleveraged boat anchor or I’m going apartment hunting in whatever nation is warm and the phrase “If you ain’t with us, you must be agin’ us” is never uttered.
Anyway, if he ends up getting a house, especially one nicer than the one he grew up in, it means he’s farther ahead at his age than I was and he’s got a nicer house than the one I ended up affording.
Which means that I’ve fulfilled the whole hoping my kid is a little better off thing, though I wonder how that relates to my dad.
He was proud of me. I hear that all the time. But…
His house had this green steel I-beam support running its full width. On the I-beam was stamped the one word that defined what my dad did for a living for 40 years: “WEIRTON.”
It’s likely, and I romanticize that it has to be true, that he fired the iron in the blast furnace that guys further downstream at Weirton Steel turned into a steel I-beam that supported his house from the mid-1950s on.
In other words, his castle, the little ranch with the big front porch that he was so proud to own that he refused to sell it and lived in it until he died, no matter how many times my mom wanted to get rid of the house, rested on something he made, the strong fruit of his labor.
If I look for something I made that could support my physical being, I guess I could curl up and be warm under an A-section of the newspaper with headlines I wrote on it.
All that played through my head the other evening as I got existential as I drove through Weirton, looking down on the blast furnaces and over at the majestic sweep of the once-mighty Basic Oxygen Furnace as the sun was setting just right on a 72-degree perfect summer evening along County Road. I could hear them working. I could sense my dad and thousands of other fathers working over in those blast furnaces and for a moment, the trees weren’t growing atop the stoves that were kept so hot for a steel century. And I started for the first time in a long time to choke up as I thought about my father and the mill. And then I realized I’m not angry anymore that the mill is mostly gone. I’m not mad at the politicians, the imports, the unions, the pollution regulations, corrupt officials, the moon, the stars and maybe even God.
The mill isn’t what it was and it never will be again. Just like my Dad.
Then the Beach Boys “I Get Around” came on the radio and I thought about how I was driving along in a perfect California beach cruiser wood-sided wagon that was my dad’s last car. And how that song transported me back instantaneously to that ranch house with the green Weirton Steel I-beam making the house stand level and strong, and how my brother and sister certainly filled the bill of hope for the kids doing better and how he was proud of me, even if my house never achieves the value of his and my only physical product is newspaper blankets with my headlines on ’em.
And how the three of us all grew up happy and supported and loved in a house that was strong as the steel our father made and as warm in my heart as a cooling ingot.
And then I got caught in the Route 22 construction traffic as I headed back into Ohio and all those thoughts went away, replaced with a smile.
May your philosophical moments end happily as mine this Father’s Day weekend.
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