At 73 years old, after 44 years of running his own business, and recent triple bypass surgery, my father went out in search of a job. Retirement was not his thing.
He could not bear to spend another afternoon playing bridge with my mother and her blue-haired old friends. He tried yoga, martial arts and tap dancing. He took an introduction to computers class and he spent some time with his grandchildren. But what he really wanted to do was work.
My mother encouraged him to find a job. He was driving her nuts, hanging around the house baking cookies. And there were just so many times she could beat him in Scrabble and expect him to recover.
“But what kind of job can you get?” she asked as he prepared for his search.
“Edna,” he answered. “Don’t be ridiculous. There are plenty of jobs out there for a talented guy like me.”
He left the house with buoyant optimism.
First he headed to the nearby Atlantic City casinos. He thought he could be an asset to their security system or valet parking crew. But when he asked for a job application he was met with an incredulous stare.
“For whom do you want this application, sir?” a young man or woman would ask from behind a glass window. “For me,” he answered. “Who else?”
They’d sigh and give him an employment form, accept it when he turned it in and mumble something about don’t call us, we’ll call you. My father went on to the next casino, and the next. Then he returned home and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t.
“Where are you going?” asked my mother one afternoon after she trounced him in another game of Scrabble.
“I’ve got to get a job,” answered my dad. “I can’t spell worth a damn and if I bake another chocolate chip cookie I’ll barf.”
He left in a huff. Tires screeched as he pulled out of the driveway in his Lincoln Continental Town Car.
He was gone all day. When he returned, late that night, he was exhausted. He had visited every golf course between Atlantic City and Cape May. He had decided he wanted to drive big lawn mowers and cut grass.
For three days he waited by the telephone. On the fourth day, a personnel director called from a nearby golf course. “We'll hire you, Mr. Parker,” he said. “Weekends only. Be here at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning. The pay is $6.50 per hour.”
My dad hesitated for just a moment. “Okay boss,” he said. “I’ll be there.”
When he arrived early the next morning at the club he was taught how to punch a time clock. He was given a plastic bucket full of dirt. His new supervisor, who was fifty years his junior, said, “Go out on the course, Parker, and fill every damn hole you can find with dirt. Don’t come back until you're sure there is not one divot left on the course.”
“But what about driving a tractor?” asked my dad. “You saw on the application, didn’t you, that I have experience with lawn mowers?”
The youngster stared at my dad. “Do you want this job or not Parker?” he asked.
“Give me the bucket,” said my Dad. “You won't be sorry.”
And that’s what my dad now does for a living. He fills empty holes with the horse manure he carries around in a plastic bucket in the early morning hours when the rest of the world is asleep. Oddly enough, he loves every minute of it.
But he spends his time on the fairways, greens and in the roughs hoping that someday he will be promoted to lawn mowers. Once a week he calls me on the telephone and assures me that it is only a matter of time before the super recognizes his talents, gives him the keys and sets him loose. He’s good at filling those damn holes and they know it.