The last fifteen years of Dad's working life was spent working as a janitor at Pinkham's Lumber Company, which is located just outside of Ashland on the Portage Road. Pinkham Lumber, at that time, had the distinction of being the only fully-automated lumber mill in the United States. It utilized every piece of the tree, nothing was wasted.
Dad had already worked for twenty-five years for Maine seed Potato Growers but the Social Security he received didn't amount to all that much so, he had taken work as a janitor at Pinkham Lumber for another fifteen years so that mother would be taken care of if anything happened to him.
Dad enjoyed his work as a janitor at Pinkham's even if it was "shit" job, pardon the pun. Dad was a quiet man who kept his own council but he had a dry Maine wit and he dearly loved tellin a good "Maine" kind of story.
One night he came home and told of how he'd gone to work that day and as he was making his regular rounds of cleaning the toilets, a Canadian worker rushed by him and into one of the toilet stalls. Because the weather in Aroostook County is so cold in the winter, the men usually dressed in layers in order to keep warm. Dad said the man was in a dreadful hurry and consequently, he wasn't as careful as he might have been. He'd rushed into the stall and hurriedly sat down. When he'd finished, he stood-up and came slowly out of the toilet. As he reached behind him to tuck the first layer of shirts back into his pants, a horrified look spread over his face and he slowly and carefully withdrew his hand. He shuddered and spat out a whole string of swear words in French. In his hurry to get to the toilet, he'd neglected to lift the final layer of shirttails. Dad said that he didn't understand all what the man said but he figured "shit" was "shit" in any language.
Because the mill was located about seventy-five miles from the Canadian boarder, Canadians were routinely hired to supplement the local Maine workforce. Many of these men couldn't speak English and most of them only spoke broken English at best.
Dad's favorite story was about a Canadian who was trying to use the telephone at the mill. As Dad walked past the phone booth, he heard the man say to the telephone operator, "Ello, Ello, Hoperation? Could you put me on top of my wife in Fort Kent?" Dad thought this was the funniest thing he had ever heard in all his life.
Another time, while working at the same job, a man came in to use the toilet while Dad was washing the floor. Dad said that the general consensus around the mill was that the man was a real "dick." In fact, all who had met him had reached the same conclusion, "he was a complete waste of good skin!" as they say in the county. Having a college degree had gone to this guy's head and he liked to strut around the mill and use big words to try to impress or intimidate the regular workers.
On this particular day, the man nearly knocked the mop out of Dad's hands in his rush to get to the toilet. He didn't come out for quite a while and when he finally emerged, he walked past Dad, never making eye contact, or even acknowledging that Dad was even there, like his shit didn't stink.
Dad didn't hear the rest of the story till much later. It seems that the man didn't quite make it to the toilet so; he was faced with either removing his soiled shorts or padding them with a wad of toilet paper. He decided to pad them with the toilet paper and hoped that no one would notice.
During the course of the day, he forgot his predicament and got to strutting around the office trying to appear important. Unbeknownst to him, the toilet paper had worked its way out of his shorts and down his leg where the shitty side attached itself to the side of his shoe. Everyone in the office noticed he huge wad of shitty toilet paper stuck to his shoe but no one would tell him. Dad said that the story was told all over the mill and that it was just another example of one more educated fool who didn't know how to wipe his own ass!
Finally, Dad's health had deteriorated to the degree that he couldn't work any longer and after fifteen years of cleaning toilets, he called it a day. He wasn't really able to enjoy retirement because his emphysema was so bad and there wasn't much that he could do. So, he just hung around the house and watched the rest of the world try to blow itself up.
Every now and then Dad's best friend Raymond Davenport would meander down the Masardis Road and drink a few brews with Dad and they'd rehash all their working years again. Then, Dad heard that Raymond was awful sick and that he was in the hospital over to Presque Isle. Dad hurried off to visit and found that his friend wasn't long for this world. He had liver cancer and after surgery and chemotherapy, he only lived another three months.
Dad grieved for his old friend and then he told mother that if he ever had the same thing, those sons-ah-whores at the hospital weren't going to touch him and that was that! He said that as soon as they'd opened Raymond up, the cancer had spread all through his system. He made mother promise not to take him to the hospital if he got worse.
Sometimes, life has a way of turning on you and the irony of it all is unbelievable. Mother, seeing that Dad was looking peaked and off his food, drug him off to see Doctor Pelly in Ashland. It wasn't too long before Dad was diagnosed with cancer of the same organ that had taken Raymond. Upon being told the news, Dad turned to mother and said, "You do remember your promise, don't you mum?" Mother nodded her head.
Dr. Pelly, upon hearing what Dad said, looked at mother. "He made me agree that if he ever had cancer like Raymond, I was to keep him at home and not force him to have an operation."
"But Bill," Dr. Pelly said, "I'm only guessing at this point. I have to do some further tests before I really know for sure."
Dad looked at the doctor for a long moment and then he said. "Well, give me an educated guess then."
Dr. Pelly sighed and said, "I'd guess from all your symptoms, you might have a couple of good years and then about three really bad ones."
Dad nodded his head and got up to leave. "I'll take my chances. Remember doc, no one gets out of this world alive," and he headed for the door.
Dad lived another ten years, some good, some bad. He got to see his eight kids do well and see one die. On May 2nd, nineteen eighty-two, Dad took his final trip. He slid out of his sick bed, drug his tired old body down the cellar stairs and filled the furnace with wood for mother for the last time. Then he crawled up the stairs and back to his bed. He died as he had lived, a good father, a hard worker and one hell of ah man.
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Memories, Another Place - Another Time
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