This past Sunday, my sister, 10 years my junior, and I took our father to Citi Field to see the Mets mop the grass with the Miami Marlins. We went to the game to celebrate our dad’s upcoming 70th birthday, so, naturally, I got to thinking about the man and our relationship.
I never thought I’d have much to learn from my father. He’s a blue-collar guy who’s self-taught in the art of repairing just about anything and has developed systems for doing and measuring things that I could never begin to understand. While he was learning and developing those skills, he moved furniture for 20 years and then did everything that needed doing at the Ardsley Country Club for another 20. He’s basically dedicated his life to the pursuit of work.
I was resigned to this thought pretty early on in life. I knew I wanted to write in some capacity when I was in first grade and it didn’t seem to me as I got older that anything my father did, or was doing, would apply to that in any way.
Different worlds, I thought. That’s the way it will be.
One of the things my father didn’t do was go to college, so, more than anything else he wanted me to be the first person in our family to go.
And so I did. For a year.
The college, SUNY Purchase, didn’t really have a writing program, or a journalism program at the time, and I was essentially there because I was too scared to live away from home and because I knew, even though all I really wanted to do was write, going to college was what was expected of me; it was basically my duty.
It was the one chance I had to dedicate myself to something with the kind of work ethic my father has. Didn’t happen.
From there, I worked, but they were my kind of jobs; white collar jobs. I did two tours in retail, I was a manager at a movie theater, I worked undercover for a management consulting firm; all stuff suited to me.
I can’t say I ever was embarrassed by any job I had, but, in the back of my mind, I always thought the stuff my father did was what a real man does.
Then came 1999, and I stopped working at all.
The idea was my wife, who was my fiancé at the time, was making enough money that I could stay home and write. Not only was that not the case, my drive to dedicate myself to writing—the thing I always told myself, and anyone who would listen, was the only thing I wanted to do—petered out a few failures in.
Flash forward 12 years and I was basically a house husband, and not a very good one. My father worked straight through those years.
In September 2012, my wife and I agreed it was time for me to return to the workforce. I joined The Mamaroneck Review as a reporter soon after.
Things were different. I was different.
Reporting is not an easy job; I’ve touched on that in this space before. In the early going, the trials of the job conspired with the massive culture shock of returning to work in a setting I’d never experienced to push me so far out of my comfort zone it wasn’t even an oasis on the horizon.
It would have been easy to quit, and I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind, but I didn’t. I dedicated myself to the work.
In January 2013, I moved over to the deputy editor’s desk at your newspaper, which has proven to be its own set of challenges and pressures. Most of my time is not my own, but, in something that looked at first like irony, I wrote the recently-published novella I’ve mentioned with what time I had away from this chair and it wasn’t easy.
I really had to dedicate myself to the work.
About a month ago, I made arraignments with the publisher of that novella to write another, but, whereas the first book took me the better part of a year to finish, this next one, which will be of equal length, is due at the end of September, about two and a half months from now.
Sitting here, typing these words to you, I’m not worried about that deadline. Why? Because I’ve written a book before; I know how to do it.
I basically taught myself.
And even if the deadline for this book is closer at hand than its predecessor, I know I have it in me to dedicate myself to the work.
All the work.
Just like Dad.