I was talking to my mom on Easter Sunday and she reminded me how many holidays Dad worked as I got older. When he became a security guard, he worked weekends and countless holidays, as property always needs to be protected regardless of whatever day it is on the calendar. My dad never complained about this, it was just what he had to do to support his family. Maybe he would have preferred a 9-5, Monday-Friday gig, but he was never the type to hold down a stuffy office job. He preferred working outdoors (and the automatic smoking breaks!)
Once my Dad retired and my parents moved to New Mexico, they would usually go out to eat on a holiday, nothing fancy, usually Denny’s (senior citizen discount) or Pizza Hut (where they would always order pasta, never pizza.) Still, these mundane outings gave my parents great pleasure. Now Mom, all alone for the holiday, ordered delivery from Pizza Hut. She was going to set at the dining room table and burn a candle in memory of Dad.
Old habits die hard and holidays always make one think of loved ones now gone.
I don’t think Dad ever met a cat he liked until he fell in love with Bonita.
To be fair, until that point, the only cats that our family had any contact with were the strays that would drape themselves across our fence and yowl at the top of their lungs in the middle of the night. My dad wrote a famous (in our family) letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times about the stray cat scourge in our neighborhood, creating a firestorm of controversy and making my dad Public Enemy #1 in the eyes of local crazy cat ladies. (And I use that term in a most loving way, as I’m now one of their most fervent members.)
Bonita the cat with one of her kittens.
When my dad became a security guard, there were lots of lonely nights patrolling the trucking company he worked at. One of his fellow co-workers introduced him to Bonita. She was a scruffy, suspicious feline, a street-smart cat that was weary of the streets. She may also have been weary because she was pregnant.
Dad fell for Bonita pretty hard. He started bringing her cans of food nightly. He would provide us with regular updates. He would mimic how he called her name and how she would come running up to him. (I’m guessing the sound of the can opening was the real reason, but if Dad thought he was the reason, so be it.) Bonita had her kittens and then there was a family of felines to feed. Perhaps some of the kittens were trapped and adopted, I’m not sure. But Bonita remained. She had probably never known the inside of a loving home and probably never did in her entire life.
But there was Dad and the other workers, who at least provided her with the basic necessities. Months after my dad stopped working there he would return, to feed a stray cat named Bonita that was anything but pretty but to my dad, was a friend in need.
After dad lost his job, it took almost a year for him to find new work. He never went back to the trucking industry, as he was getting to the age where he was passed over for younger guys with stronger muscles. He didn’t have any formal job training before he became a Teamster. I know he was a bellhop for awhile in New York City.
So like it is for many Americans right now, it was tough for dad to find another job. He was middle-aged, with only a high school diploma and unskilled in any kind of trade. It was a huge blow to his ego, because while dad may not have been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, he was always a hard worker who provided for his family. He had always been able to find stable jobs with the Teamsters but they pushed him into an early retirement.
Dad floundered over the next several months. He was a worker and now he had no work. He also didn’t have a great deal of hobbies, other than reading. And one can only read so much. I’m sure he went into a depression, as many long-term unemployed people experience.
I’m not sure how the security guard position came up. It was at a trucking company called Rolling Thunder. He may have heard about the job through a former co-worker. At any rate, he got the job. He was unarmed, but was given an official uniform, which he was proud to wear. His job was to let the trucks and other vehicles in and out of the facility. He spent most of his time in the “guard shack,” a small structure that allowed him to sit and listen to the radio, and eat his lunch in between duties.
I’m guessing it was a pretty lonely job, but he was well liked by the truckers who would shoot the breeze with him. He could also take smoke breaks whenever he wanted, and he did get some exercise by walking his rounds. The pay wasn’t much but it helped pay some bills and most importantly, made dad feel like he had a purpose in life again. At the time, I was embarrassed to say my dad was a security guard, because the position is often looked down upon. But now, I realize how important the job was to my dad, and how much it meant for him to provide for his family again. He was a good man.