Saturday, February 27, 2021

Thank you, Mikegyver


For as long as I can remember, every weekday at one in the morning, my father got up to go to work, and didn’t return home before one in the afternoon. The kids on my working-class neighborhood street knew not to make a lot of noise in the mid-afternoon, because they’d “wake Mister Siger.”


On the other hand, my mother never seemed to sleep. I only remember her wide-awake, doing one task after another aimed at taking care of her husband and three boys. Both my mother and father gained their work ethic from their immigrant parents: my mother’s father a tailor, my father’s father a house painter turned grocer, and my parents’ mothers each relentless homemakers of old world intensity.


Like so many first-generation sons and daughters, the Depression drastically altered my father’s plans, forcing him to drop out of college to help support his family. That undoubtedly explains what brought my father to the one point in his life when he refused to openly discuss my plans for my future. 


I came home one day from grade school (8th grade to be precise, when I was 13) and announced that after meeting with a career counselor, I’d decided to go to trade school rather than on to academic high school. The world was far too competitive for me to expect to make a living off of an academic curriculum, and I’d be far more secure as a plumber, electrician, or carpenter.


My father calmly informed me that was not an option. I was going to college. Period, end of story.  With that resolved, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that when I won a national art award for sculpture during my freshman year in high school, he also pointed out that a career in the arts was not likely to yield financial rewards sufficient to support a family.


I owe a lot to my Dad’s wisdom. Decades later, when I finally decided to pursue a career in the arts--albeit with a pen rather than a chisel--I had done well enough in another career to sustain myself while reaping the personal rewards of the new one. 


 But most importantly, the world owes my father an unwavering thank you for forbidding me from going to trade school, because I’d have made a lousy electrician, plumber, or carpenter. And let’s not even think about auto mechanic, welder, or machinist.


I like to think we’re coming around to recognizing that without those possessing the skills necessary to build, repair, and care for things we acquire through the value of our own particular skill sets, all those things would be rendered useless.


Those folks possess real-life skills of the sort that far too many fail to appreciate until the power grid goes down, the pipes in the attic burst, the ceilings begin to collapse, a tree takes out your snow plow, or the car won’t start.   


Or in my case, the gutter on the back of your house collapses under the weight of built-up ice dams.


At times like that, we all need a Mikegyver, an improvising fixer of all problems big or small. Mine’s standing on the ladder in this photo.

So, thanks, Dad and Mom, for instilling in me a deep respect for hard work…be it mine or another’s…and thank you, Mikegyver, for answering the call to spare my house from becoming the latest bit of proof of why trade school was never for me.