So after a couple of decades of getting up to go to work for someone else I find myself at 4:33 AM today, contemplating a future of never working for anyone else but myself, ever again. My remaining obligations to VisitPittsburgh wrapped yesterday and now I’m up early to prepare my first PITTMOSS(TM) Development Company payroll. Oddly enough, the memory of another pre-dawn morning from August 1982 has been elbowing it’s way into my bleary eyed consciousness as I try to focus on work. On that day my dad took this eighteen-year old, smart mouthed, sulking kid to meet a bus. It was the beginning of a journey that would train a new soldier and make new men of us both.
My dad, who was the same age I am now, had been laid off like most of the other men in the steel-making region of Northwest Indiana and our family was “making due” with mom’s wages. Still, it surprised me when I was told college was out of the question, unless I had a plan to pay for it myself. It wasn’t long before I was sitting in front of a recruiter. Not long after that I was in the cab of my dad’s pick-up truck, waiting for a Greyhound, bound for an Alabama Army base. I don’t recall that we communicated a great deal that morning, listening to the rain and the slapping of the windshield wipers, but there was definitely an understanding between one another.
He had worked hard for thirty years to provide for his wife and five sons and now found himself unable to do so in the prime of life. Now that the mills and his union livelihood were probably gone for good he would have to evolve in some way and endure a transition to a new, late stage, career. Waiting for that bus, outside of an Indiana donut shop, he somehow expressed his pride and gratitude in a son becoming responsible for him self. As we embraced and said our goodbye I understood that setbacks happen, that only those who quit are ever truly defeated, and, to never expect, but to be grateful to those who provide you assistance.
Progressing through my military and subsequent, G.I. funded, college and occupational careers, I cheered dad’s development of a successful real-estate appraising business that he only recently closed due to retirement. In many respects, dad’s loss of his safety net, union job, was absolutely the best thing that could have happened to him, in hindsight. While his evolution into small business ownership was one of necessity and mine is more self-inflicted, I hope to endure the growing pains of change from employee to employer with as much grace, perseverance and self–reliance. I’m desperately in need another cup of coffee now, but I’m so glad this memory decided to pay me a visit this morning, reminding me to thank a great teacher and mentor. Thanks Dad!