His gigantic desire to achieve was right in line with his physical stature — north of 280 pounds, with arms the size of legs, decorated with tats that reminded you that he loved his country. His physical presence was the result of good genes and a lifetime of being a meat packer. That’s a job title not heard of much today. Just know it involved carrying sides of beef (that would be half a cow) most days for eight to 10 hours in the confines of a freezer. Story has it that he was better than most. Even meat packing demanded excellence. “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” was the mantra by which he lived. He gave the man the best he could every day for decades of work. He expected the same of me.
No Dairy Queen for losing. No trophies for participation. He was about honesty when it came to poor performance. Let me tell you, when the most prominent character traits for a person are high expectations and honesty about poor performance, many conversations involved my sullen face that may or may not have led to tears. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it was always valuable. I came to appreciate his drive and wisdom years later, when maturity caught up with my age.
As an aspiring Little Leaguer, I wasn’t bad. Good in the field, not as good at the plate. Just because I was the tallest kid didn’t mean I could hit — something others came to understand soon enough. After another game with me leaving runners on base, he gave me an honest assessment riding home from a loss. I’m guessing I was in the fourth, maybe fifth grade.
The car ride was quiet. We had lost and I fell short of expectations. He asked what I thought. My ability to hit the ball was showing itself to be a problem, and something needed to be done. I’m sure I didn’t answer. The question was loaded and even at 9 or 10 years old, I knew my response would not suffice. I asked Dad what he thought of my hitting. He said that I should probably learn to pitch. Stinging honesty was his trademark, and he didn’t disappoint.
Just over 20 years ago, the old man passed. The lessons he left with me allowed for my success. I watched him work hard, have a high level of expectations, desire to achieve and exhibit a spirit of excellence. His honesty assured that he was no picnic on occasion.
I remember him always being there. He was consistent and as solid in taking care of us as his physical stature reflected. Lessons learned, Dad.
Thanks for the memories.