Saturday, May 5, 2018

Roots

My son is heading off to college soon. It has made me reflect back on the choices I've made, both for me and for him. They seem to have worked out, for the most part. He has scholarship offers from two excellent schools. He still likes to hang out with me; asks to hang out with me, in fact.

Maybe it's those mountain roots.

When I was young, living in the shadow of the Appalachians, we pretended to be farmers. Really, we were just bumpkins who had some land, and every so often we had cows or horses or something that looked like a garden. And I mean that in the most positive way. Readers of my blog know that I am quite proud of my redneck heritage. Everyone should be, because we all share that past. Just about everyone was, a generation or two back, people of the land. Country folk. Rednecks. Not the pretenders who live on half acre lots and drive pristine trucks with knobby tires that have never seen a speck of mud, with a spray-in bed liner that has never known dirt or mulch or any hardship, much like the men who drive those trucks; and it's mostly men who pretend to be that which they aren't: rednecks. I don't begrudge them their fantasy; maybe I'm one of them, though my truck is beat up and is held together only by the quality manufacturing processes of Toyota. I seek out hardship, it seems. I use a push mower, hand cut wood, come up with projects that guarantee physical pain just so I can figure out a problem and walk away from it with blisters and cuts and body aches in places that really shouldn't ache.

That's how I was raised. Work meant using your hands and I never really fully grasped how to work any other way than by doing.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stayed at my first job, as a ditch digger at the water company. Would I be on my first back surgery? My second knee surgery? Would I have continued riding bikes? Would I have ridden more? Would books mean as much to me as they do today?

Would I be happy at work? Or does that follow the person and not the job? One thing about the blue collar world: the hierarchy is more structured and more respected. You become a foreman for a reason, and I've never heard of that title being taken away form someone without it including a termination letter. Responsibility is earned and taken seriously. I was lucky in my life to have good managers, for the most part. But the best were in those days when I labored for a living.

I have tasted that responsibility in my career and had it yanked away in the most cruel way, for reasons either fabricated or exaggerated. It's not something I understand, and maybe never will. Humans confuse me sometimes.