Labor Day was always a big deal for our family. Back when I was a teen and on until very recently, most of our family went to the beach for the entire week. The rest of the extended family joined us for a big reunion the Saturday before Labor Day.
In those days my father was still with us. He and my mother hosted my Great Aunt Estella and her husband, Uncle John for the week. Aunt “Estelle” and Uncle John traveled from Jefferson, NC every year in their 1960 Plymouth Galaxy, always arriving on the Friday of the weekend before Labor Day weekend and then departing for home at 4 am on the Sunday before Labor Day Monday.
My mother and father, my Mom’s sister Aunt Betty and their brother Uncle Jim all had mobile homes in the same campground at that time. (We are still there). My sister and I and our cousins were lucky; we had my father at our disposal to tote us back and forth to the beach and boardwalk.
What a wonderful man my father was. I never knew any other man to work as hard. He was barely still, except for an hour or two in the evenings which he spent watching TV if there was something on that interested him. (He and my mother watched an hour of PBS every week. The show was called Washington Week in Review, and back then my father referred to the announcer (whoever he was) as “Mush-Mouth.” I never could understand why the man was called Mush-Mouth because I ran away to my room to get away from a boring news show before I heard him utter a word. Still, the name Mush-Mouth stuck. I’m pretty sure my parents watched Mush-Mouth for years.
Dad liked variety shows. He watched Laugh-In, Hee-Haw, Sonny and Cher and Donny and Marie, along with The Three Stooges if he could catch them. (When I was a little younger, right before my parents moved us from Toughkenamon to Landenberg, we lived next door to my PopPop. PopPop–retired and mostly deaf–watched The Three Stooges each afternoon at 3 in his old fashioned parlor. The TV was so loud that you could almost hear it from our house next door). If there were no variety shows to be found, my father would settle for a detective show, like Kojack. He couldn’t stand anything else on TV. Comedies were out; he couldn’t stand them & made fun of the characters, especially Fonzie. The Waltons was deemed a “cry-baby show.” Yes, I know my father sounds short tempered. He was. But still, he was a sucker if we asked him to do anything for us. In addition to carting us back and forth to the beach he would drive us to the roller skating rink and anywhere else we asked.
After the TV was turned off for the night, Dad always went to the cupboard above the kitchen sink for a shot of Calvert or Four Roses, his favorite brands of whiskey. Then he went to bed, slept and got up the next morning ready for another day of work. After his day job was finished he worked on projects such as building an addition onto our home, and later a garage. He grew fruit and vegetables, and he and my mother canned tomatoes and homemade tomato sauce every summer. After I married my husband, Dad fixed up a little apartment for us. We’re still here–the apartment is now a house thanks to Dad.
My father wasn’t a tall man, but he was still a big man, someone to look up to. My husband lost his father at age 18, the year before he and I were married, so my father became his father by default. Tom helped my dad build our house and later another garage. There were too many other major building projects to count.
Dad also cleaned gutters, put on a new roof, cut his large yard and kept the lawnmower in good repair. He changed the oil in cars, trucks, lawnmowers, tractors and his rototiller. He always ran the mower over the fall leaves around my house and my sister’s, since we live on the edge of the woods. That way there were no leaves to rake.
In addition to all of these jobs, my father helped clean our parish Church each week for many years. He usually vacuumed. He also burned the Palm each year for Ash Wednesday. He drove my nieces to preschool and picked them up, took each of his grandchildren to the bus stop every morning and met the bus each afternoon until they were old enough to wait alone.
I could go on and on. Dad loved his family and liked to work. He was a Jack of all Trades. That’s why Labor Day makes me think about him.
My little granddaughter, pictured above, only met Dad once, right before he passed away. Tomorrow is her first day of school–Pre-K. I feel sorry for her and her little brother. They will grow up not knowing their Great Granddad, who would have done anything for them.
But he’s in a better place now.
I’ll mow your lawn, clean the leaves out your drain
I’ll mend your roof to keep out the rain
I’ll take the work that God provides
I’m a Jack of all trades, honey, we’ll be alright
I’ll hammer the nails, and I’ll set the stone
I’ll harvest your crops when they’re ripe and grown
I’ll pull that engine apart and patch her up ’til she’s running right
I’m a Jack of all trades, we’ll be alright
A hurricane blows, brings a hard rain
When the blue sky breaks, feels like the world’s gonna change
We’ll start caring for each other like Jesus said that we might
I’m a Jack of all trades, we’ll be alright.