Some of my fondest memories are of Saturdays spent with my father…rest his soul.
I’ve always been a morning person and my father was too. On Saturdays we’d be up before everyone else in the house…and I’d watch him make a list of the things he needed to do or purchase that day. Then we’d be off…just the two of us, going through our Saturday father/daughter routine.
My father was a marketing director for a major soda pop company. He traveled a lot…worked long hours…and it often felt like he wasn’t present during the week. He made sure my sister and I understood why…that he had to work to be able to provide for our family and that we should not take our home or three meals a day for granted. My father often shared stories from his childhood…he grew up in poverty and his childhood was one filled with hunger and want.
I have a vivid memory of one Saturday in particular. It had been a tough week for our family…my older brother had experienced some real challenges with his behavior therapy at school and my mother had put in 16 hour days trying to help him get himself back on track. Dad had put in the same kind of hours at his job, so by the time Saturday rolled in neither one of them had been able to get to the market.
The fridge was empty save for a container of hot sauce and some pickles.
I was around 7 or 8 years old and I remember walking into the kitchen to wish my father a good morning…and seeing him standing in front of that empty fridge with a look on his face.
A look on his face and shoulders slumped as if the weight of the world rested on them.
He looked stricken…
Was that fear?
He turned to me and smiled a lost little smile.
Yes, haunted…stricken…with a touch of desperate fear.
And my father said…softly, so softly I would have missed it if the house weren’t hushed in sleep.
“I guess we need to go to the grocery store, huh?”
I remember nodding but wanted more than anything to give him a hug and tell him that it would be okay because we would fill that fridge to bursting.
But I knew with a certainty that is rare in life that hunger was still my father’s demon even though his belly was no longer empty…that he wouldn’t shake that haunted feeling until he packed up that fridge.
For him, providing through his labor wasn’t defined by flashy new cars or trendy clothes – providing was as basic as food and shelter and the absence of that triggered something deep within his soul.
We got dressed and hit the grocery store with a vengeance…he insisted that we go through every aisle and I remember giggling in embarrassment as he ate a bunch of grapes he’d snagged early on.
Our groceries were bagged…we returned to our house and unloaded them…and I watched as the tension left my father degree by degree as each shelf in the fridge filled with food.
When we finished he returned to his pose in front of the open fridge door, a satisfied smile on his face.
Twas so basic and raw and human…it took my breath away.
I remember the lesson learned that Saturday morning of why we labor…
…and that far too many labor for a wage that will never truly provide.
Happy Labor Day.