Monday, December 21, 2009
Thinking of Dad
When I was growing up, my father was a business agent for the Operating Engineers Union. He was the voice of the man in the copper mines in Arizona and his job took him all over the southern part of the state.
One year, there was a massive strike going on and it was getting close to Christmas. Dad had to drive to Ajo, about 150 miles away, to distribute Strike Checks to all of the mine workers and, because I was out of school for the either the weekend or holiday break, I got to go with him.
When we got there, everyone met us at the Union Hall. I remember it was a sad place, but no one was complaining and the sense of unity was palpalable. These men knew what they were doing wasn't supposed to be easy in the short term, but was necessary for their long term livelyhoods. Every one shook Dad's hand as he handed them a check for $15.00. I will never forget the amount of that check.
One man came in, grabbed his check and lit out like his tail was on fire. Dad asked a few questions and finished handing out the remaining checks, then looked at me and said "Let's go Sis, we have something to do before we head home!"
So we left and Dad started driving around this little neighborhood, looking at all the houses, searching for an address until he located the place he was looking for. "Let's go and see some people", he said. We went to the door and knocked and the man who had come to the meeting and left in such a hurry answered the door.
"Hola Jose", that was about the extent of my father's Spanish, and Jose's English wasn't much better. I spoke some Spanish and Jose's kids spoke English fairly well, so they both pushed us in front of them to translate. "I hear your wife is pretty sick", my Dad commented to Jose. "Si, Mr. Bill, she lost a baby and has been having a hard time. The other kids help, but its hard. I couldn't stay for the meeting, she needs me to be home and help with all of this." He waved his hand around and as I followed it, I saw more kids. There were at least eight. The house was small, was probably company housing, if not then it was at one time. Jose's wife was bedridden and you could see the kids looked lonely and scared.
My dad reached in his pocket and pulled out another check. "Jose, they told me you were having a hard time of it down at the Union Hall. I want you to have this". Jose took the check but he didn't look at it, he thanked Daddy and we left.
When we got home that night, Dad and Mom went back to their bedroom for a discussion. Its where they always went to talk when they didn't want us kids to know what was going on and, around Christmas time, there was alot of meeting in the bedroom!!
They were only in there for a few minutes and Dad called us all into the living room. He proceeded to tell my brothers and sisters what we had seen in Ajo and how bad off Jose and his family were. Then he said, "I got paid before we left for Ajo today, but I didn't have a chance to go to the bank. After seeing what Jose and his family were dealing with, I signed my paycheck over to him. Now we are not going to go hungry and our bills are paid and the roof is in good shape. It may not be the biggest Christmas that we ever had, but it will be the best."