Watching Dad Work

From my earliest memories, I remember my dad working.  Not only working, but working hard.  At whatever he did.  I think that is one of the things that most defines who he is.  He is focused, and will not stop until the job is done.  He expects the same in others and while is laid-back about most things, has never understood when others do shoddy work or work with less passion.

There were times I probably wished this was not the case, because it was also the expectation that his children work just as hard and gee, that is difficult for the daughter whose mind can stay focused at times, but other times would prefer to be in fantasy-land!

While I often did not see Dad “on the job”, I did see him at work at home.  I saw him doing yard work, sweat pouring off of his body (Something I believe all of his children inherited from him….we sweat.  Yuck.  Thanks Dad!)  

The job was always the focus.  It certainly wasn’t wardrobe.  Thankfully we don’t embarrass easily in our family or we would have been mortified at the time we looked out to see him mowing the lawn in cut off work pants, no shirt (but hairy chest), red suspenders, black ankle socks, and slip on canvas shoes.  In fact, to be honest, not only was I not embarrassed it is one of my favorite dad memories.  (In fact, I probably have mentioned it before.) I think perhaps Mom was a bit mortified, but even she had to laugh.  That’s our dad and the man she married!  (Obviously there was no homeowner’s association during those days, or possibly we would have been cited because surely there would have been an ordinance against it.  Or he would have led to its creation!)

My dad has listened to my work tales over the years and has been one of my best advisers.  While sometimes we think he does not think about things like office politics, when he was working in jobs that were more corporate in nature he recognized the writing on the wall.  If your boss was displaced and you were put in their position, know that at some point it could happen to you.  There always needs to be a realistic view of things and a recognition that things really aren’t personal.  Decisions are often made that, when broken down, are made sometimes for arbitrary reasons and others for reasons that are for business purposes without recognition of what they will do to people on a personal basis.  That’s just the way it is.  You need to plan for those times.

While my dad is an engineer by education, much of his work life was spent working in family businesses.  He worked with his dad and his brothers in their heating and air conditioning business for years and then went into a construction/real estate/property management business with his brother Darrell.  They were a good team.  Dad’s engineering skills came in handy as they built apartments and solved those backroom types of problems.  My uncle Darrell was more of a people person and paid attention to the relational side of the business.  Both could be stubborn, both were opinionated, but whatever the disagreement neither of them were the types that held a grudge.  They would reach a decision and go on.  He worked with some of his other brothers over the years, and you would see the same sort of interaction.  I think my siblings and I inherited this trait from those McKinney men…..and it is one I most appreciate.  The way that family should not only work together, but be in general.  You speak your mind, and you go on.  You don’t carry it with you into the future.  Love unconditionally, lived out in the real world.  Or maybe short memories.

The engineer part of my dad has also always been a part of him, and is another thing he passed on to us.  He approaches a problem by taking a look, tearing it apart (either mentally or physically), and putting it back together again.  Emotion is not part of the equation….it’s mostly science.  While I don’t do as well about keeping emotion out of things, I did inherit the ability to step back from it as I look at the issue.  I am different…I throw the emotion back in at the end.  But the problem solving skills have definitely come in handy in life, and I am glad that I learned from a great teacher.

He has always loved work so much, I used to wonder if he would ever be able to retire.  While he hasn’t stopped working completely (he still is involved in the family business…Myrtle Place Apartments…if anyone you know needs an apartment recommend them!), he has stepped back and taken some time for retirement.  I am grateful that he is healthy and strong (despite a bad back!) and that he still teaches us that hard work is a gift in itself and the best way that a good life is earned. 

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