Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oh, Dad

Friday marks my father's yahrzeit--the anniversary of his death.  He died in 1998, so it's been 13 years, which seems incredible. In honor of him, I'm re-posting this piece, which I originally posted in March of 2010.

As I've mentioned before, I live in what some might call an "edge" community--by which I mean I live in a town that is generally more affluent than its neighbor to the east. In this case, the neighbor to the east is the west side of Chicago--a mostly black and, in some places, distressed area. Streets severely potholed, food deserts, boarded-up windows and deteriorating buildings. Grated store fronts. When I drive through there, it reminds me a lot of the Grand River and Joy neighborhood I describe in my novel. Today, I want to tell a story about the place where I live and a colander
     Many years ago, my parents came to visit. While my husband and I were at work one day, my parents got busy trying to help us out around the house. My father noticed that my colander--which looks much like the one in the photo above--was in need of repair. The ring at the bottom, on which the whole enterprise depends, was hanging by a thread. Well, he thought, he'd simply head out in the car and find a place that does welding--a body shop or some such. He was certain he could find something.
     When looking for services, most people in my town head west (away from the Chicago neighborhood I described in the first paragraph) rather than east. Either my father did not know this, or he didn't particularly care, so he headed east. My father was not a large or imposing or macho man. I think he simply wasn't afraid of certain things. Or perhaps he was unaware that he should be more cautious in certain places and situations. I do not know. In any case, he soon found himself pulling up to a body shop on the west side of Chicago.
     He got out of his car, this smallish gray-haired Jewish guy, colander in hand, and entered the building. There he found four black men, sitting around a table, playing poker and smoking cigarettes. I do not think in reality that they were drinking whiskey, but in my imagination (forgive me), they were.
     "I'm wondering if you can weld this for me," he said. He showed them how the ring was flapping. The men looked at each other, likely somewhat incredulous. They put down their cards. They put down their cigarettes. (They sipped from their drinks.) And then one of them got up, came over to my dad, and said, "Sure. Let me see what I can do."
     I still have that colander. And you can still see the welding marks. It wasn't the finest, most elegant repair ever, but it's held all these years.


Jim Poznak said...

Correction, for the reasons stated in you post, it IS the finest repair ever made.

Susan Messer said...

Well, I do suppose you're right about that. Thanks for pointing it out.