As of this moment and forward into perpetuity, or next year anyway, this will be my annual Father's Day post. It might be shit. But it means something, somehow to me.
I wish I had a time machine or some cosmic stain-remover and could undo much of what I did, said, didn't do and didn't say that demands undoing. As we age, we flip through life accomplishments and disappointments like a fat man on a toilet looking at the old Sears catalog. We're disgusted and repelled by much of what we see
|Life was cheap as the Trans-Siberian Rail-Way was being built. |
Thousands died, many more wish they had.
With baggy pants down around their ankles,
the cry of "Hem boy!" would ring out.
|Temperatures dropped to -200 (Celsius.) Colder in the shade.|
It was a railroad three-times as long as the transnational route across our continent. Through terrain that made the American West look like Frontierland at a Disney theme park by comparison. It was nearly 6,000 miles long and was built through some of the most desolate and forbidding land in the world. What's more, in the summer, temperatures could drop to 200-below (Kelvin) and it got even colder in the winter.
The workers who laid the tracks were given by the Trans-Siberian railway just one pair of work pants. By the time they had reached Krasnoyarsk, they had generally lost so much weight from eating their meager rations that their pants were down around their ankles. Of course, when you're pounding in spikes all day, having your pants fall down isn't just embarrassing, it's downright dangerous.
So the railroad hired scores of "hem boys" who would run along the railway waiting for a worker to sing out "Hem boy!" Then they hustled over to pin-up and hem the workers' pants.
There's no telling how many hems my grand-father shortened this way. Or how he managed to last the years he did. But somehow he lasted long-enough to save what he needed to land in America and start a new life on our teeming shores.
That’s probably as good an encapsulation of fatherhood as you’ll find anywhere.