As a kid, I used to wonder why The Old Man was always uptight. Of course, I had no idea what it meant to have a bank account, let alone keep money in it. At the time, my high priced ticket items were Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum or a candy bar. At the most, I needed money to play video games or to go to the movies, but that was it. Everything was paid for by The Old Man or through my allowance, which was given to me by my Mother, but first, it was given to her by The Old Man.
As a little boy, I had a piggy bank filled with 356 pennies. I know this because I counted them three times. While finishing the third count, I believed I had a lot of money. I felt as if I accomplished something. I believed having 356 of anything was a lot until I learned that having 356 pennies only meant that I had $3.56.
Maybe there were a few nickels in the mix. I suppose there were a few dimes and some quarters. But mostly, I had pennies, 356 of them to be exact.
I am not sure what happened, but I remember The Old Man being tense about money. He would leave the house before sunrise, work all day, and then come home after the sun went down. Maybe he was frustrated because business was rough, or maybe it was a simple as they raised the price of gas. But in an effort to help, I offered The Old Man my piggy bank.
Though genuine, my offer did not make him feel better. Figuratively, it was all I had. But more, I worked hard to save it.
However, bills are seldom paid in figurative terms…
I used to wonder why The Old Man was always uptight. I wondered why he was always tired and why he never took a sick day—even when he was sick, he still left the house before sunrise and came home after the sunset.
I suppose I was too young to know about bills. I was too young to understand about mortgage payments or what it meant to own a company and have to make payroll so that others can feed their families. At most, my daily pressures consisted of which teachers I disliked. At worst, I had a bad day with my friends, or maybe I skinned my knee on the playground.
At best, The Old Man was able to make it home before his supper was cold. At best, he was home early enough to watch television and fall asleep on the couch.
My Old Man worked to give my family the life we lived.
And that is not always an easy thing.
I suppose if I asked him about this on a bad day, he would tell me, “It’s none of your business.”
If I asked on a good day, I suppose he would say, “You’ll understand when you get older.”
Like so many times before, The Old Man was right on that one. I understand. I understand because there are times (like now) when I come home after a long day. I sit at my dinner table, often eating re-heated food and thinking about the bills I need to cover for the week.
I think about my child support and my commitment to my daughter’s mother. I think about my wife and the car we share together. I think about food shopping, clothes shopping, and I accept the fact that other than a pair of sneakers, I have not bought clothes for myself in a long, long time.
I worry. I feel angry. I feel hurt, as if I failed those who depend on me. I feel frightened and sometimes panicked. There are times when I am overwhelmed and the frustration gets to me, and like my Old Man, I suppose I appear tense or uptight.
I sometimes sink into myself and become silent.
I am far from wealthy. My home needs to be updated. My oil burner needs to be replaced, but first, I have to finish paying for this year’s installments of oil. I need to redo my wood floors and tile my kitchen. As well, I need to pay my mortgage, electric, cable, phone, and insurance—but let’s not forget my commitment to Uncle Sam—of course, I need to pay him first, right?
I am no different from anyone else; however, in the end I am fortunate.
I was exchanging messages this morning with a friend from the old neighborhood. He deals with the same bills as I do. He is a husband and father. He works to feed his family, but his son is ill. His son is ill, but yet, my friend continues.
Suddenly my pressures seem less crucial, or in comparison, it’s like having 356 pennies…
My friend told me, “He may be sick, but my son is strong.”
I say his son must be.
Look at the Father he comes from.
I admire him