My dad will celebrate his 80th birthday next month. I would say he is not your typical senior citizen. He has always been an a/c technician by trade. He started way back when most folks didn’t even have central a/c and heat in their homes. Some have called him a master at his trade. He is, in general a very handy guy who can do a little bit of everything. He’s one of those guys whose children will proclaim “my dad can fix anything.”
He was never into sports or hobbies. No golf, no fishing, no NASCAR, nothing like that. His leisure activities consisted of work, work, and more work. He was always working on something. If you wanted to have a conversation with him you would speak to his back or sometimes his backside; as he usually had his head stuck inside some piece of equipment, like a furnace or something. Mind you, I am not complaining. As I was raising my son as a single mom I could always count on him for any and all household emergencies; plumbing backups, and broken windows, whatever. Whenever anything went awry, I called Dad.
One spring, I got the idea to relocate my water heater to make more space in my kitchen. I had only to mention the idea to Dad and the next thing you know, he shows up with his tools, ready to go. Of course, I was thrilled, but I had no idea what I was asking him to do. I knew that the crawl space was somewhat confining; but as I watched my dad disappear below floor level I stuck my head in the opening and watched as he inched his way toward the other side of the house I realized this was not going to be a walk in the park for him. I watched as his work light got smaller and smaller and when I could no longer see him, I began to panic. I thought “what if he gets stuck down there, what if a gas line explodes, what if a snake bites him.” So I called out to him “Dad, are you ok?” no answer, “Dad, are you ok?” louder this time, no answer, “DAD!!” Even though his reply “yeah” sounded very muffled and far away, his tone implied “why are you yelling?” Still, being the worrier that I am, I felt it necessary to walk around knocking on the floor to locate exactly where he was under the floor “just in case.”
When he finally emerged hours later declaring that the hard part was done, I was relieved. I told myself I would never ask my dad to put himself in such peril again! I told him as much and he just kind of chuckled and said there was no danger, but he admitted it did make his back kind of sore and he might be a little too old to work like that anymore.
He didn’t mean it. That was about ten years ago and he’s still working. He loves it; it’s how he’s made. Charlie, that’s what I call him at work, still reports to Chapman Air & Heat every morning, where he worked as a commercial service technician until last year. Nowadays, he takes care of maintenance around our shop, picks up parts and equipment. When asked if he is ever going to retire, he says he believes if stops working, he stops living. Look for him around the shop on any given day and you may find yourself addressing his backside as he stands on a ladder with his head stuck in the ceiling working on ductwork or re-wiring something. As I said, he’s not your typical senior citizen.