Sunday, December 09, 2012

Letters from my dad 2

Today I told mom a story about dad that she says she never knew about him before. A silly sentimental story, perhaps. But I thought it characterized him and how he lived, in a fairly unique way.

When the new chapel was built in Manhattan Beach, Coba
be Brothers Plumbing had the contract for the plumbing of the new building. I was on the building site one day, early in the construction. My dad was there working, but I don't remember helping him that day. I guess I was too little, though I did a lot of plumbers helper kind of work with him later on, on other projects.

Anyway, I just kinda recall that he seemed kind of irritated with me all day. I supposed he was mad about something, because I was a little too stupid to understand what was wrong, and I pretty much stayed away from him all day.

I understood that he was working on a bathroom for the workers all to use, while they were there at the building site. There were lots of other people there working at the time, but I didn't really think too much about it.

Later in the day, dad got more and more cross, and I could tell he was in a hurry for something to get done. Of course, I was busy myself, playing with my cousins and friends who were running around the building site.

Later still, I happened to be where my dad was working, and I was shocked to see clear evidence that he had wet his pants. I'd never seen anything like that before happen to my dad, and was still in the stage where I had been thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that wetting your pants in front of other people is shameful. I started making fun of my dad, and asking him was he still a baby, that he wet his pants right so everyone could see it. He seemed to pay no attention to my teasing, and by then it was obvious even to me that he was working so hard, even in a frenzy, trying to get the plumbing work done. Pretty quickly I got the hint that he wasn't going to respond to my teasing, so I left him alone.

He finally got his plumbing work done to his satisfaction, and I saw many other people come and line up for a turn in his newly finished bathroom, a lot of them in a big hurry. It was almost comical to watch, but I still didn't get what was happening. I should have been more perceptive, because much later I realized what was going on.

His assignment that day was simply to get a functioning temporary bathroom installed. He was working as hard as he could, but it took a long time, for some reason much longer than he had expected, and I'm sure he noticed a lot of them sneaking off into the bushes to relieve themselves, as there was not yet a working bathroom available. I can see now, in hindsight, that he cared much more about satisfying the needs of the other workers than he did about taking care of his own needs. He refused to take just five minutes to step off into the trees and relieve himself, even when his own need could no longer be denied. He simply refused to stop until the bathroom was working. He wet his pants rather than take the time off from the work to serve the urgent need of others who were waiting and depending on him.

I thought about this a long time after it happened, and it finally dawned on me that my dad was a plumber who cared about getting the work done more than he cared about his own comfort. A real plumber's story, perhaps, but a real lesson too, about how much my dad cared about other people.

All his life, I saw this lesson magnified and reiterated many times. I guess I'm pretty dull, but I finally came to realize that he really had sacrificed his own interest countless times, to serve others, and to make other people's lives better, even when it cost him. A lot of people thought my dad was only a plumber. I realized he was something far more important, and that has made a lot of difference to me throughout my life.

My dad was a true life superhero, disguised as a plumber.

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