I'm Proud Of You
I wiped the sweat off my brow with my long sleeved T-shirt while working outside on a very pleasant early fall day. I caught a whiff of the smell of that sleeve and it took me back a very long time ago to a place and time I hadn't thought about much lately.
My dad was a shift worker. During his twelve-hour day shifts I would often wonder what he was doing and I'd look forward to the moment he'd arrive back at home. I didn't get to spend a lot of time with him. I'd pass the time by doing things that I thought would surprise him or make him happy when he got home. Whether he was working nights or days, it was around 6:30 in the evening or 6:30 in the morning when he'd get home.
On one particular day I decided after arriving home from school that I would shovel the snow from the driveway and sidewalks. My dad was very particular about how things should be done, and I really wanted to impress him, so I was taking extra care to not leave any lines of snow behind the shovel path or to vary the angle of the snow piles beside the driveway.
I arrived after dark from school. Mid-winter in my part of the world sees darkness around 4:30 in the afternoon. I didn't even go inside knowing that it would take close to two hours to do a good job. It had snowed all day, and the snow was deep. It was close to 6:30 by the time I was finished when I heard the back screen door creek open and my mom calling me to come in. I realized I hadn't even let her know I was home so she must have seen me outside and just let me get the shoveling job done. She knew I liked to surprise my dad.
I went inside and ate with my mom, my brother and my sister and I wondered why my dad wasn't home yet. We finished eating, did some homework, and watched some TV. The evening passed quickly and soon it was time to get ready for bed. It was close to 9:30 and my dad still wasn't home. We all went to bed and fell asleep. I was disappointed not to have seen my dad, again.
I don't know what time it was when I felt a nudge on my shoulder. I looked up from my sleepy place on the top bunk to see my dad standing there beside me in the dark. He put his hand on my shoulder and whispered slowly, "thank you for shoveling outside, you did a good job." As I said, "you're welcome," he leaned over and gave me a small hug. I could smell two things as he got close; rum and the 12 hour shift ground into his brown cotton blend Dickie's work shirt. To me, that was one of the best smells in the world.
The smell of my dad's work shirt grounded me. It made me aware of how hard he worked at the plant, and it made me feel safe and taken care of. It helped me believe that my dad loved me. The smell of my own work shirt reminds me as a father that my kids need to feel these things just like I did. Thanks, dad. You taught me the value of hard work in taking care of others and helping them feel safe, cared for, and loved. I know you're proud of my efforts, and I'm proud of you too.