Waiting for Godot:Waiting for Dad

June 25, 2009

The Old United Engineering & Foundry

I am, as the Brits say, “hanging fire” waiting for my appointment at the PMS Valley Clinic. Heartburn, severe enough to worry me for a couple of days. I ate more yogurt. Checked Web MD to calm myself that I wasn’t having a heart attack (the server went down while I was checking, which didn’t calm me). If I sit up I seem more comfortable. They can see me at 2:30. It’s 11:30. I’ve spent most of the morning listening to Radio Wimbledon. Impeccable Federer wins, Sharpova shocked…a difficult task, tennis on the radio. My concentration can suddenly tip to panic unless I keep myself calm. The phone rings. Birds squable by the window. My sleep has been tissue thin for weeks. I’ve been traveling, riding the interstates all over my past. Mostly I hope for a nap that doesn’t come.

This morning we closed on the sale of my parent’s house. From 1,500 miles away (and apart) my wife and I get e-mails from the realtor. It’s over; the check is in the mail. Here in the Jemez I’m alone and waiting for that too. Remembering my father died of a heart attack in the ambulance from his cardiologist’s office. I’m closer to his age than far away. My friend Linda says stress that isn’t released goes into the body…maybe that’s what happened. My body has been disintegrating for these last few months. I’ve just been pretending it hasn’t been. I’ve driven 5,000 vacation miles since June began. I broke a crown on vacation this spring. I’ve had a temporary bridge, so I haven’t been eating properly–digestion starts in the mouth. And I’ve been eating lots of vacation food, all variations of you can’t get this anymore. I’ve gone to the gym periodically—run my few miles here and there. Stayed mostly vigilant about my diet; taken my Vitorin every night, vitamins, Omega 3s. But I’m still waiting for my appointment, worrying and thinking about my father. 

He’s been gone more than ten years, but I think about him often. He died three years after he was laid off, in the first months of his actual retirement. A couple weeks ago my friend Jerry and I drove down by the old United Engineering and Foundry on Phelps Street in Youngstown. I wanted to take some photos of where the Old Man worked.  A century ago it was a good enough job to have brought my Great Uncle Angelo from Italy. In the Fifties when Dad was hired, Uncle Angelo ‘got him in’. He worked eleven to seven and four to twelve for twenty-nine and a half years of his life. Most of my childhood he was at work, asleep or just waking up. He was an honest, hardworking man. He did his best for my mom and me. I have no complaint. He was from the generation that honored their secrets. I doubt he would read this; I know he couldn’t have conceived of saying, let alone writing any of this for just anyone to read. 

Our family only owned one car at a time, mostly Oldsmobiles. For thirty years The Old Man shared the gas with guys named Mick, Scotty, Big Ed, or walked to work. When I was old enough to drive, I picked him up. I was late picking him up once; I never made that mistake again. Every shift change was a Le Mans start. The second the time clock went “click”, men with lunch boxes, grocery bags crumpled under their arms, or taking drags on cigarettes came running as fast as they could out the double door. Now, I can only make guesses what they were putting behind themselves. The Old Man never said a thing about it beyond “Garbage.”  They bowled together, cashed their paychecks and drank boilermakers for breakfast at Moore’s Tavern and showed up every day. When one of them died, the foreman auctioned off his tools and gave the money to the widow. I never met a single friend of his from work until the day of his funeral. They were who they were. It was what it was. That’s all they said about it.

 The working classes are addicted to brutish work, war and prisons. It’s how we see who we are. That we make money, make the world safe for democracy, or if we’re guilty or innocent—it’s all secondary to how we stand up to it—how we do our time. Jack Dempsey said “Champions are guys who get up when they shouldn’t.” The Old Man was that kind of stand back up guy. One day he showed me a 1” X 1” gray plastic box, inside was a bronze lapel pin, Fifteen Years Perfect Attendance. It had never been out of the box. When he got laid off, he threw it away. The day he died, he drove himself to the doctor. Now my chest is on fire and I’m alone waiting. Part of me wants to call a friend to talk, or come by and take me. But a more brutal part of me wants to hold the Old Man again, wants to be stand up, to take it, to shut up and drive. It is what it is.

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4 Responses to “Waiting for Godot:Waiting for Dad”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Dom, this great writing. Worrisome though. Please post again as soon as possible and tell us all you are okay.

  2. annie marie Says:

    hey, i went to the hospital for chest pains 2 years ago, it was stress. given our histories, it is stressful thinking about it. please inform asap. remember 6/25/77? you were my best man! now that was some stress….

    great write

    • domzuccone Says:

      6/25/77? I believe you wereconfused by the smokey whiskey. Check the certificate, you won’t find my signature. I didn’t sign anything in Ohio with a legitimate signature until I signed the Ford PU payment book the month before I left. You’re probably suffering from PTSD. I’d wager you don’t remember Elvis being at your honeymoon either—but he was.

  3. Mike Says:

    What about the pain in your chest?

    Good to see your dad, this makes the third time; 1) Kentucky, 2) in something you wrote a few years ago, and, 3) in “Waiting for Godot: Waiting for Dad”.

    Your mom? Namaste.

    Togetherness

    When a cutter Bob is using
    suddenly balks and grabs steel
    and explodes
    with loud, nerve-wrenching rings and pops
    that shoot out razor-sharp tool steel
    fragments,
    the machinists at the machines nearest the explosion
    duck and then rise clutching their chests
    with their tongues hanging out taking deep breaths
    and staggering about on their platforms
    as if they are having heart attacks,
    staring at Bob and then grinning,
    while the machinists further off on the machines
    out of reach of flying steel
    whistle and applaud
    like spectators in an audience
    who have just seen a good show
    put on.

    Fred Voss


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