Is That All There Is? A Moment With Bill
TAKING A TRIP BACK IN TIME
It was a simpler time for sure. We did not call it simple living, but simple living it truly was. My parents were children of the Great Depression, so they had surely seen tough times. Perhaps that’s why the life they lived when I was growing up seemed better than just survival. Maybe they were living their version of the American Dream. After all, they had a home, a car and a family. Maybe that’s what they set out after when they moved to Tacoma, Washington after the end of World War II.
Although my memories are a bit hazy regarding my earliest years, it seems to me that my mother always had a part-time job. I remember her working at Penny’s when I was very little, and then at the Proctor Dime Store, and later for Safeway and Piggly Wiggly.
My father always worked for Pioneer Sand & Gravel. He told me he originally was hired part-time in 1948, the year I was born, but shortly after that he was hired full-time, and he continued to work that job for twenty years until he died in 1969.
He was gone from the house by seven a.m., Monday through Friday, and home at five p.m. each day. Sometimes he would pick up extra shifts on Saturdays and Sundays, and until he had his first heart attack in 1968 I do not believe he missed a day of work in those twenty years.
Lest you think he had a cushy office job, let me tell you that he worked outside doing general maintenance and yard labor for all those twenty years. No matter the weather there he was, in that giant gravel pit, putting in a solid day’s work for a solid day’s pay.
One would think that that kind of dedication and work ethic would pay off in some tangible rewards, but truthfully we rarely had extra money for frills. My folks had to save diligently the entire year so we could go on a vacation in the summertime, and more often than not they would have to take a loan out before Christmas to pay for gifts, and then spend months afterwards paying off the debt.
I was home from college the night my dad died, and several days after his death I was sitting in my bedroom reflecting on my dad’s life, and I remember thinking “is that all there is to life?”
Is that all there is? Are we born, work our asses off, and die with little to show for it? Is that it?
The first of this series
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A VOW TO MYSELF
I promised myself, on the day of my dad’s funeral, that my life was going to stand for more. I promised myself that there was no way I was going to work for twenty years at a job I disliked and have nothing to show for it the day they lowered me into the ground. Not Dale Holland’s boy by God! There were bigger fish to fry for this boy; there were dreams to pursue and endless possibilities awaited me, and when my days on this earth were done there was no way I was looking back with regret.
Perhaps that explains the path my life took. Perhaps that explains the twenty-five different jobs and the constant feeling of restlessness, as though I were a gypsy in search of the next great score.
There was always more I could be doing. There was always more I should be doing. There was always the feeling that a hidden truth was just beyond my grasp, and if I just changed my perspective, or changed the angle from which I looked at life, it would all become apparent to me in time.
My father began working during the bleakest years of the Great Depression when he was fifteen. He stopped working that bleak, colder-than-hell evening of January 9, 1969. Thirty-five years of physical labor all told, packed away in a bronze casket.
I, on the other hand, began work when I was fifteen. I am still working at the age of sixty-four. Forty-nine years of labor, a lifetime of experiences, and finally an answer to the question “is that all there is?”
Ms. Peggy Lee
PERSPECTIVE WAS CALLED FOR AND FINALLY GAINED
All of my life I have heard people say that they dreaded growing older. I, on the other hand, have found that I love these years as I stand on the down slope of life. I have found great clarity during this stage of my life, a clarity that eluded me for decades. Despite three college degrees, wisdom had always remained just out of my reach. I do not claim to be wise now, but I do claim to see with more focused vision, and one thing I see clearly is that I was wrong about my mother and father. I was wrong in thinking that their lives had been a waste, and I was wrong in thinking that they somehow were cheated out of their just due.
Is that all there is?
As I look back, I realize that my father and mother were happy. Yes, they worked hard and no, they had very little money, but they never voiced the belief that they were cheated and I do not believe for a second that they thought that.
What I do believe is that they were satisfied in having raised two children, both of whom turned out as good citizens and loving parents in their own right. I believe my parents loved each other, and I believe that they were good citizens and compassionate people. I believe my parents understood the meaning of the word responsibility and that they were people that could be counted on whenever and wherever they were needed.
I looked at the job my dad had as stifling and as an entrapment. He looked at his job as a role one accepts when one has a family that depends on him. I looked at his job as a punishment. He looked at it as an opportunity and a privilege.
Is that all there is?
A Moment with Bill
HERE IS WHAT I NOW KNOW
I do not know about most men. I suspect that Thoreau was right on with regards to many, but my thoughts about my parents have changed over the years. I do not believe that Thoreau’s quote applies to my parents. I do not believe their lives were quite desperation, but rather lives of their choosing, and they were quite satisfied with those lives.
Wherever love exists can there truly be desperation? Wherever the bond of family exists, can there be desperation? Hundreds of millions of parents rose from bed today, went to work, worked hard, and came home bone tired, and yet they did so willingly because that is what parents do to provide for their families. We do not always get to write the script of every chapter of our lives.
Sometimes….oftentimes…circumstances dictate that we do things that are not necessarily enjoyable but are still required for the common good. Those times are not moments of desperation but rather they are moments of nobility, and today I understand that fact and I applaud it.
Today I have a job that I love, a family that means the world to me, and a smile on my face. I am not rich and most likely never will be. Quite frankly I will probably always have to scramble for money, and disposable income will always be six syllables that apply to someone else.
Today I ask myself if this is all there is and I answer…..YES THANK GOD!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)