Born in the mid 1940’s, I was the final child of four, and I grew up knowing that if birth control beyond the words “not tonight dear” had been available, then I would not have.
You sort of sense those things as a child, and when you accidently hear your father say it, then it pretty much confirms your suspicions.
I should have known that my father loved me, but he was one of those men who was taught by his mother that praising your children is something that you should let other people do, and so a nagging suspicion of being unwanted hung around in an area of my unconscious mind. A fear, which could far too easily be triggered into conscious thought.
My father was a rail thin ironworker. A little over six feet tall and a little over a hundred and forty pounds, and he had reached the middle of his sixth decade on this planet when he hired me to work with him on a construction job for the summer. Hiring a non-union worker, even the son of the boss, was not looked upon by the other ironworkers with favor, and my skills in “climbing the iron” did nothing to change their mind about my qualifications. But all of the men working for my father at the time accepted it without open question… Well at least I thought they had.
My first Friday on the job I was busy on the ground doing some mind numbing assembly of bolts, washers, and nuts that would be used by the other men when they were mounting the windows into the steel building frame. I heard some commotion and looked up to see one of the men on my father’s team running toward me.
“Jesus Christ, he’s going to get killed” he said, pointing back into the building. “John will kill him in a fight.”
I knew the “he” was my father, and John, a man in his thirties who was six foot four weighing at least 240 with pretty much all of it muscle was the odds on favorite in a fight with my father.
By the time I got into the building, I’d been told that John had made some pretty disparaging remarks about the son of the boss, and that my father had gone to confront him about it.
“I’ll kill you if you ever say another word about my son,” I heard my father say, and he was standing about ten feet from John who at that moment looked immense compared to my rail thin father.
John, however, was the one who had the look of fright on his face, and when I looked back at my dad I saw the three-foot long steel pipe, “the equalizer” in his hand.
“Don’t ever say another word about my son,” my father repeated as John turned and then walked away mumbling.
“He’s crazy, that skinny ass old man is crazy. I ain’t getting into a fight with him.”
My father had always used the phrase “Talk softly, but always carry a big stick,” and I really understood that message, but the main impression made was that you do not have to always be told that someone loves you. Sometimes you get to see it in action.