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The Words of My Father: A Man Pays His Own Way

A Little Housekeeping

Over the years I have presented several “series” of articles, this being one of them, remembering the words my father spoke to me during the twenty years of his life spent with me, words which had a profound effect on me, words which shaped me into the man I am today.

Since my time on the writing platform HubPages is coming to an end soon, it is only fitting that I put those series to bed with one last chapter, and so it is with this series, this article.

The greatest influence on mu life

The greatest influence on mu life

A Brief History of My Father

Dale LeRoy Holland was born in 1919 in East St. Louis, Illinois. He was raised during those formative years by a physically abusive father and two older brothers, so that by the time my dad was a teen, he was a brawler who demanded respect with his two fists and stormed his way forward with a no-nonsense approach towards life.

He hated excuses. “A man makes his own bed, Bill, so he better by God like how it feels when he lays down on it.” He dropped out of high school, as a sophomore, to make money during the Great Depression for his family. He worked a physically-demanding job with constant back pain, thanks to a broken back in a car accident, and he worked it with no complaint. In the twenty years I knew the man, I never saw him call in sick once. Not once! He missed three days of work in November, 1968, after suffering a mild heart attack, as though any heart attack is ever mild. He returned to work and died two months later from a heart attack which could, in no way, be described as “mild.”

His Philosophy About Work

Dad believed that work defined a man. He believed that work was good for a man, it gave him purpose, and it gave him a feeling of self-worth. He was not impressed by titles and he gave equal importance to the work a doctor did, a scientist, a corporate leader and a ditch-digger. The type of work was unimportant to that simple man from Illinois. What was important was that a man had a job, worked hard at that job, and paid his own way through life.

If you were able-bodied then you worked. You did not ask for handouts. You did not live off the charity of others. You did not ask to borrow money from family or friends. If you wanted something, or needed something, you worked until you earned the money to purchase that something, or you did without. Period, end of discussion! I do not remember one time when Dad asked for help, or asked for a loan from any friend or family. It simply wasn’t in his DNA to do so.

No slackers in this family

No slackers in this family

And He Passed That Philosophy Down to Me

I’ve worked for fifty years, a fact which would have made my dad proud of his son. My first job was in a bowling alley, at the age of sixteen. I then secured a manual labor job in a fruit and produce warehouse, worked summers there while attending college, and after graduation continued to work job after job after job, supporting family, buying homes, securing a financial future, paying my own way through life.

And, like my dad, I gained a sense of satisfaction and self-worth from all the jobs I had. I don’t believe any of those jobs defined me, per se, but I do believe my willingness to pay my own way defines a part of my character, and it is a character I am proud of.

Unlike my father, there was one time when I borrowed money, $200 when I was out of work and living in my truck, and it bothered me greatly to do so. But I paid that money back within a month of finding work, and I’ve never done it again. Like my dad, it’s just not in my DNA to borrow from friends or family.

Today’s World

It’s probably just as well my dad died when he did. If he were alive today, he would be livid about the number of able-bodied men, and women, who simply do not choose to work. He would be amazed, and not in a good way, at the number of grown adults who have moved back home to live with their parents. He would be, quite frankly, pissed at the number of people who readily accept free checks from the government, choosing that kind of support rather than supporting themselves.

And yet he had compassion, and readily gave to charities to help those who could not help themselves.

He was, at times, a mystery to me.

My Thoughts, for What They Are Worth

I am not my father. That was painfully clear back in 1968 during our arguments over Vietnam, and it is still clear today. Unlike Dad, I do not deal in absolutes when I speak. I do not believe all Republicans are bad, as he did. I do not think all unemployed are lazy, as he did. I think there are an almost unlimited number of shades of gray when talking about we humans, and it is insulting to our species to make a blanket statement to describe all seven-point-six billion of us.

I do believe there is value in having a job, and that value goes far beyond the simple matter of paying for food and lodging. I believe showing up to a job, and doing a job to the best of your ability, does give a person a sense of worth and value. I believe performing a job, even the most menial, is good for the psyche, for the mind, and for the body.

But we face a different economic reality today than we faced in 1969, the last year my father was alive. I understand how people, working two jobs, can feel deflated and hopeless when they still can’t afford rent on a decent domicile. The price of acceptable housing today is ridiculous and far-beyond the grasp of many people, and that simply was not the case when I was twenty. I have said it many times before, that I don’t understand how any young couple can expect to ever purchase a home in today’s economic landscape.

Yes, there are jobs available, many unfilled positions, but to blithely point at that fact and then shake one’s head and say people deserve to be homeless if they don’t want to work, well, that is beneath the dignity of any intelligent human being. It is a complicated mess, our economic system in the year 2022, and one weak, all-encompassing explanation/accusation does not come close to explaining why there are so many people not working.

It's time for a rest after 50 years of working

It's time for a rest after 50 years of working

I Don’t Have All the Answers

Not by a long shot. All I know is the current system of capitalism is not working for the population as a whole. No, I am not suggesting socialism or any other ism, so don’t bother me with such drivel. What I am saying is if it’s broke, it needs to be fixed, and our economic system is broken for a vast majority of Americans.

No, my dad and I would not see eye-to-eye on this matter, but that’s all right. Sons and fathers quite often disagree, but that’s where love kicks in and joins the discussion. My dad would not have wanted his only son to grow up to be his clone. He wanted his only son to stand on his own two feet, be his own man, and be someone who can hold his head up high and declare to the world “I did my best.”

And today I can do that, and I have no doubt my dad would be proud of me if he were alive today.

And I smile as I write those words.

Thank you, Dad, and thanks to all of you who followed this series to its end.

2022 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)