Mom and Dad loved getting to know our friends, and in the case of my sisters and me, they especially liked getting to know the boys we were spending time with. Oftentimes, my dad would offer summer jobs to our friends.
My dad owns a small business as an arborist. His crew of about ten men trims, skins, and prunes tall palm trees. And the workers who don’t climb and trim are left to the roughest work: clean up! Boys that accepted these jobs were expected to show up to work at 5:30 a.m. to beat the desert heat. They spent their work days hauling heavy, spiky branches into trailers and sweeping debris off sidewalks, streets, and lawns. Needless to say, my father-the-boss learned very quickly which of our male “friends” knew how to work. He never complained about anybody’s work ethic but silently noted those worthy of praise. He watched their interactions with co-workers, and he sustained conversations with them while traveling in work trucks. I felt very guarded and safe when friends gained my father’s approval because I knew he had really taken the time to know them.
I remember feeling especially protected during my junior year of high school. I was still a little young to date anybody steadily, and my parents recognized my need for help to steer away a rather persistent suitor. One Saturday morning during one of this young man’s many visits to our home, my dad walked into the kitchen where we were having a snack. He came in with his usual greasy work shirt, his hands dirty and roughly calloused from a life of labor, his face darkened from days under the beating sun. This hard-working father gently spoke to my friend, “Come with me, I need your help fixing a couple of our bikes.” This young man quickly got up to help my dad in the garage. I found out later that while fixing flat tires, my dad began the conversation with, “So, how long have you been interested in pursuing my daughter?” I don’t know where the conversation led from there, but I knew my dad was doing his best to watch over and protect me.
Questions (always asked with a wink and a smile) like “Do we have any bikes that need fixing?” or “Does Dad need to go out and fix some bikes?” became code in our home for “Do you feel uncomfortable? Would you like your father to have a talk with this young man?” My sisters and I know our dad is always ready and willing to guard us as a jeweler would guard his finest rubies. I’ll never forget the times where my rough, hardworking father showed such sensitivity and care in those situations. In these moments, I have felt the closest to my dad.
Today’s post and image are contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. Holly King’s story was first published in Seeing the Everyday no. 25. For more information, go to seeingtheeveryday.com