This one might get personal…
I can remember it as though it were yesterday. I was seven years old, and about to sit down and watch cartoons for yet another Saturday morning. He was at the top of the stairs, and about to leave for work. For reason’s I can’t recall I blurted out, at the top of my lungs:
“Can I come to work with you, Dad?”
And that’s where it all started. I went to work with my father for nearly every Saturday morning thereafter. He was the general manager of Kingston’s Rust Check at the time, and as time progressed, he went on to own the location, as well as a “sister shop” in Belleville. As years turned into decades, I spent most of my time outside of school working in the family shop, rust-proofing vehicles. It’s where I spent my March breaks, summer vacations, and even the famed teacher’s strike of 1998.
As the “bosses son,” I definitely had it pretty easy. However, dad was never hesitant to deliver harsh lessons in reality. I mopped floors, cleaned the bathrooms, made coffee for the staff, and learned the value of hard work at a young age. Sometimes the lessons he tried to teach me, or knowledge he strived to transcend didn’t always sink in immediately. He was, after all, my father and likely the most patient and generous individual on this earth.
Whenever I made mistakes, out of reckless juvenile stupidity (a particular party I threw on hishouseboat comes to mind) or got myself into a jam -he was there to pick me up, and remind me of my humanity.
I didn’t spend all my time working for dad. The nature of the business was seasonal, and with it came seasonal layoffs. During the off seasons I’ve washed dishes, worked cash registers, labored in construction yards, worked in call centers, software companies and was even a DJ at the Plaza Hotel’s Shakers Lounge back when I was 19. (yes, the strip-club)
In 2003, dad sat me down, and offered to put me through college on the stipulation that my course selection would provide me with skills that would benefit the family business. I chose the Advertising – Integrated Marketing Communications program at St. Lawrence College. After graduation, I returned to the shop and set to work trying to modernize our approach to advertising, and marketing.
To make a long story short, Dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye on things and after eight years of moving from the garage to the office and a handful of “falling outs” we finally found our common ground, repaired our injured bond, and were starting to work together…
Just in time for me to lose him.
I won’t get into the specifics of this, but it was sudden, and the road which led to it was the worst two years of my life. His loss came like a crisp sucker-punch to the jaw, and I found myself thrust into a twisted new reality. A world without him. Rust Check is still there, but it’s ownership was entrusted to someone else. At first I was (admittedly) bitter. It felt like a betrayal at first, but now I know he had one last lesson to teach me. Evidently, it’s the most important one I have learned so far. Nothing is ever certain in life, and you will be thrown curve balls. Things will happen which tear the fabric of your “comfort zone”. And, it’s how you deal with these situations, and roll with the punches that will shape you into the person you are destined to become.
At present, I am rapidly approaching the completion of my studies at St. Lawrence College’s School of Business… again. And thanks to my father’s immortal generosity I was left with the financial means to do so. My academic performance and grades compared to my previous enrollment have improved tenfold. I have met so many amazing people through the college and local business community, many of them friends I will keep for life. And while this adventure has had it’s stressful and scary moments I can safely say that I am having the time of my life. And it’s all dedicated to him.
Every day I mourn his passing.
Every day I miss him and am thankful for the family, friends, and people I still share this earth with.
But I face each day determined to do right by him. To capitalize on his lessons. Seize every opportunity to succeed and to help those in my life succeed as well.
Thank you, Dad. For everything.