Dull Day

It must have been all the partying I did on Father’s day but today, I’m feeling punk, no energy, no motivation, no desire for anything. I forced myself to take a walk during the hottest part of the early afternoon, and I am glad because it started raining shortly after I returned. We had a typical summer thunder boomer with high wind, hail, and lots of heavy rain. Now, we are in after rain stillness. It is the kind of day when one would benefit by taking a nap.

Summer has officially arrived in Illinois and for once we had a normal spring which transitioned into a summer. The past few years we had winter followed by a couple days of really cold spring followed by the heat of peak summer. In other words no smooth transition.

COVID-19 is still around here with fifty new cases in our county today. We also have an abundance of testing sites. Manufacturing companies are screening employees in the parking lot before they are even allowed to park. If one has a temperature he just keeps on driving to return home. The attitude in general still prevails with masks and social distancing unless you are in an outdoor eating and drinking establishment. Evidently the virus does not like outdoor eating and drinking.

This morning I had to make a deliberate trip to the gas station to fuel up. Why? my tank showed one gallon left. It is the driest I have ever allowed my car to get in the past fifteen years. I use the dash board display which shows the number of miles remaining in the tank and have always gotten fuel when approaching 100 miles remaining. Today, the meter showed twenty-five miles left.

When I was a young man and my first car was a Volkswagen bug I had the habit of running out of gas with great regularity. The bug didn’t have a gas gauge, but when the tank level reached one gallon the car started to cough and stall and hesitate. That was the signal for the driver to stretch his leg to the firewall and move a lever from vertical to horizontal. That little trick opened the tank to allow the final gallon of gas to be burned. If I was within thirty-five miles of a station I was safe. If not, I walked. When I first bought the car I used the final gallon trick constantly, except I kept running out of gas. It turned out that the final gallon valve didn’t work. I kept complaining to the German service agent at the dealer that the thing didn’t function. He only stared at me in misbelief and refused to check it out. In order to convince him that the valve didn’t work I ran the car out of gas, and my dad towed me to the dealership. I didn’t tell them what the problem was, I just told them the car would not start. A day later they called to tell me the car was fixed. Dad drove me to the dealer and I retrieved my bug. I asked what the problem was and the answer was. . . drum roll, the gas valve didn’t work, and they replaced it. I never ran out of gas again.

A year later I traded the bug for a brand spanking new Karmann Ghia. What a beaut it was. It was really just a bug dressed in Italian clothes. It still relied on the final gallon gas valve for gauging the fuel. On days when I forgot to refill and I knew it was low, I’d take my wife’s car to work and leave her with instructions to go to the gas station before she went anywhere. On several occasions she ran out of gas within a few yards of the fueling station. Poor lady would end up pushing the damn thing the final fifty feet. She never forgave me those incidents and was always my talking gas gauge afterwards. Whenever we got into the car together her first words were “do you have gas?”

Thanks Dad, For Teaching Me the Shoemaker Job

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Every Father’s Day my dad comes to haunt me. It is no different today. Memories of the many times he counseled me and taught me the meaning of work run through my mind. His teaching method was simple. He never asked for help, he just did what dad’s do to labor. He got up early, ate his simple breakfast, and walked two miles to his job. He did this for forty-five years without complaint.

His example is all I needed to spur me to learn what he was doing, and to learn how he did it. We were not Hillary Clinton poor, we were dirt poor. As a result, Dad made many repairs on a shoestring. One job that comes to mind today was repairing rotted window sills. There wasn’t enough money in the till to buy new windows, and his mind-set was why buy a whole window for the sake of one board? His fix was to first dig out the rotted wood. Then he cut a scrap piece of good wood to fit loosely into the space. Next, he then generously smoothed a layer of heavy black tar to the frame, and then placed the new board into the goo. A couple of reclaimed wood screws held it firmly into place. The last step was to fill the seams at the ends to keep water out. He called it a “shoemaker job.” That wasn’t a derogatory slam at a shoemaker, but rather a compliment to the ingenuity of the shoe repairing trade.

Dad taught me to appreciate a “shoemaker” job. In my youth, I was never satisfied with less than perfection on my home repairs, but as I aged, visions of watching Dad do his “shoemaker” jobs finally changed my mind to become more satisfied with completion and less with perfection. Completion resulted in more time with my family where perfection denied me those minutes.

Happy Father’s Day to my Sons, Son-in-Law, Brother, Brother-in-Law, Nephews, Nephews-in-Law, and all my friends who are fathers.

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JR Sr.

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Happy Father’s Day to all. The photo above is of my Dad with my sister and me. This photo was taken on a Sunday. How do I know? Dad always dressed up on Sunday to go to mass. He stayed dressed for the day. During the week, he wore blue work shirts and blue work pants. Most days he looked like he worked in a coal mine. He came to America from a small town in Hungary. His half-sister Anna and her husband sponsored him. He arrived at Ellis Island at age seventeen with but a few coins in his pocket. Somehow he found his way to Burnside in Chicago. There, he stayed at a local boarding house until my Great Uncle got him a job at the Illinois Central Rail shops on 95th and Cottage grove Avenue. His job involved doing repair on the brakes of rail cars. When he reached sixty-five years he retired from the same job.

Dad was a maniac for hard work. His idea of retirement fun was to cut tall grass with a scythe on his farm in Michigan. He created a park with a baseball field for his grandkids. We spent many weekends visiting and there was always a baseball tournament going on the entire weekend.

Dad was an excellent father and a superb role model for me, my brother, and Sis.

 

The Real Grampa Joe

The Real Grampa Joe

My dad left Hungary when he was just seventeen years old. His father told him he had to go to America because he could no longer feed him.  I admired him for the courage it took to make a move like that. He never looked back. Once he arrived in the USA it became his new home, and he adapted quickly. His sponsor was my Aunt Anna and her husband John. Uncle John worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. It was Uncle John who got dad his first and only job in America.

Dad worked as a laborer at the Burnside shops. He became an expert at repairing brakes on rail cars. During his career as a laborer, he received several awards for money-saving suggestions for how to improve the efficiency of brake beam repair.

Dad met Mom in Burnside and that is where they married. They bought a house with one of the very first Savings and Loans mortgages. They lived in that house and raised three kids there. At age seventy, Dad bought Mom her dream house in Calumet Park. He took out a loan and paid it off before he died.

Dad was a staunch Democrat. He voted the way his boss told him to vote because he didn’t want to rock the boat with his job. Dad and Mom lived as conservatives. They would have died from shame had they accepted welfare. They didn’t have much, but they knew how to make it stretch and to work for them. They made today’s Green Movement look like a bunch of wasteful polluters. There wasn’t anything Dad or Mom wouldn’t reuse or recycle into something of value.  Sometime, I’ll tell the story of being sent out to the street to collect horse manure for Mom’s garden, or  going to the railroad tracks to collect coal from the roadbed, or about raising pigeons and chickens for Sunday meals, or about using old pieces of rubber to fix worn tires.

Dad taught me moodiness, and quiet. He also taught me honesty, love, and the value of hard work. He taught me love by example. He and my mother parted only by death after sixty-four years of marriage.

Dad retired at sixty-five from the very same job he got when he arrived from Hungary. He never complained, he just kept working hard, and kept on loving us the best he knew how. He remained independent until his last week on earth. When he realized his loss of independence, he left the same way he came, alone.

Happy Father’s Day

Share with me!

Attack Cobra for Grumpa Joe's Garden by Benjamin age seven

This card is very inventive. The cobra pops out when the card is opened. Ben is also the lad who sorrowfully asked Grumpa Joe not to harm the Wabbit. He has seen the error of his ways, however, by offering a carniverous reptile to help reduce the Wabbit population.

Love from Grumpa Joe's Oldest- notice the Wabbit lurking in the corner waiting for the Lobelia to bloom.

Love from Grumpa Joe's artist Jenna Rose age seven

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