Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: IN APPRECIATION
By Sylvia Hensel
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My three brothers and three sisters were born in a cluster with just one or two years between each, then nine years latter, in the height of the depression, I came along. Pop was a hard man with the six of them. It was out of frustration with too little money, too many mouths to feed and too many bodies to clothe. He worked long hours to provide for us, and because of it we never went without the necessities of life.
His first job when he immigrated to America was at a quarry where a horrible accident handling dynamite resulted in his loosing his thumb and two fingers. This was before I was born, and so I could only imagine the difficult times that must have ensued because of it. After his recovery he took a job as a fireman for the NY Central Railroad where he worked for forty-two years before he retired.
As the others got older, things got somewhat better as they were able to contribute to the household expenses. Two of my brothers caddied at the local golf courses while my oldest brother joined the 3C’s. My oldest sister married and with that things became even easier. In spite of all this, we still didn’t have a great deal, because no matter how hard Pop worked, his injury kept him from getting ahead financially. Still, he never gave up.
The triggering event for Pop’s frustration was the pressure of daily living with the tremendous responsibility of caring for a large family with too little resources. When this lifted, his true nature was revealed. Pop became the dear, sweet, gentle man to my brothers and sisters as he had always been with me.
I was eight when WWII broke out. This is when I began to realize what a hard worker Pop was. The railroad was the chief mode for transporting the troops and supplies. Many times he had to put in sixteen hour days for two weeks at a stretch. He never drove, so he walked over five miles each way to work, and during that time he would leave the house at five in the morning and not returning until after eleven at night.
Pop also gardened about a half acre of land which provided most of our food that mom canned to see us through the winters. I thank God he enjoyed his garden because without it, I don’t think we would have made it. I cannot imagine how he handled all this without a complete physical collapse; I just remember him as whole and hearty and full of energy.
He had planned to retire when he turned sixty-six, but two years prior, while on vacation, he was on his way home from a trip to the grocery store when a pack of dogs jumped a fence and knocked him down. Several bones were broken including his leg. While recuperating, he decided it was time to retire and I never knew of anyone who enjoyed it more. My husband taught him to fish and Pop loved it. He would walk to the river and catch dinner for him and mom. It became his greatest pleasure.
He continued to enjoy everyday of his well earned retirement for sixteen years before he passed away at eight-one.
I am so sorry that I never thought to tell him how much I appreciated all his efforts to support us. I don’t think any of us did. Life is lived taking too much for granted. Too often it’s in retrospect that we see and can appreciate the efforts of another.
My sister and I had the privilege of leading Pop to the Lord. I know someday I will see him again. Until then, I just want to say, “Thanks Pop from the bottom of my heart for all the sacrifices you made for all of us.”
When I see him in heaven, I wonder if I will be able to crawl up in his lap and cover his face with baby kisses like I used to do. I hope so.
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