A Father’s Day

By Lyle Hill

Sitting next to a warm fire sipping a cup of chamomile tea, I looked out the window and was a bit surprised at how bad the weather had gotten. The gentle snowfall that had started just an hour earlier now looked more like a blizzard. Winters in Chicago can be incredibly harsh and unpredictable. The scene outside caused me to shiver and I reacted by getting up to move closer to the fire. As I did so, the cell phone on the table next to me began to ring. The caller ID notified me that it was a call from my son, Patrick. I answered it just as the second ring began.

“Hey Pat, what’s going on?” I offered up as my greeting.

“Just living the dream, Dad, and where are you and what are you doing?”

I know my son pretty well. At 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, he’s in business mode. He’ll switch gears in a couple of hours, but the tone of his voice and the time of the day let me know this was a serious call. I also knew that he and most of his crew had been working six to seven days a week and were struggling to keep up as work was coming in faster than they could produce it.

“I’m reading the newspaper in front of a warm fire and sipping some tea. What do you need?”

“I need your help, Dad. I’m in a bit of a bind.”

Patrick is the youngest of my three incredibly wonderful children. My wife and their mother, Sandi, gets the credit for how they turned out. She did a great job.

“Okay, Pat. What do you need me to do?”

“I need you to get dressed in some warm clothes and shoes and get over to the shop as soon as you can. You gotta help me do a job. I’ve got a piece of glass that has to be installed today and it’s too big for one guy and especially so in this wind. The weather has really messed up traffic and the crews are having a hard time getting back to the shop. I promised the customer I’d have this thing installed by 5:00 today. It’s the last weekend before the holiday and they’re pushing me hard to get this thing in. It’s the opening next to their main entrance and it has a board up in it.”

“I’ll be there in 15 minutes, Pat.”

Patrick, like his older sisters Amy and Beth, doesn’t like to ask for help. All three of them run businesses and take some amount of pride in their independence and self-reliance.

A father could not ask for better kids. Among the three of them they’ve given us nine grandchildren and are an incredibly fun bunch to say the least.

“And Dad,” Pat began after I had told him I was coming, “can you bring your
own suction cup?”

About ten years ago, at a Glass Expo show, I dropped one of my business cards into a glass bowl. One such card was to be pulled from the bowl and the show attendee whose name was on it would win a Wood’s 8-inch vacuum suction cup. To my surprise, my card was pulled. It is the only thing I have ever won in my life. I have entered at least 200 such contests over the years and had never won anything before or after. That cup has been in my car’s trunk ever since. I’m going to guess it has been used maybe 25 times since that event. Other than sliced bread and the polio vaccine, few things can compare to an 8-inch Wood’s vacuum suction cup.

As I pulled into the parking lot at my son’s shop, the snow was falling faster, the wind was blowing harder and the temperature had dropped significantly. The truck we were going to take was already running. As I approached the front door of the business, Pat came out and signaled we were going to leave immediately. The job was in Bloomingdale … a good 45 minutes away in the snowy weather. We  were in the truck only a few minutes when our conversation began anew.

“Can you turn on the heat, Pat? I’m freezing!”

“Heater doesn’t work, Dad. We’re only using this truck because all the others
ones are out on the road.”

“Okay, then could you at least roll up your window?”

“It’s up as far as it goes, Dad. It’s stuck.”

We arrived at the site about an hour later and it took everything in me to get out of the truck. We quickly got the board-up down and, after just a little prep work on the frame, set the glass in place. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes as we pushed the gasketing in place to complete the installation. There was a fair amount of broken glass mixed in with the snow and part of the job included cleaning that up.

“Dad, you start the clean-up while I find someone to sign off on the paperwork. There’s a shovel, broom and garbage can in the back of the truck. This should only take a few minutes.”

He returned 20 minutes later. I had finished the clean-up and was now curled up on the front seat of the truck. I could no longer feel my legs. He jumped in and soon we were on our way. We drove for about five minutes before either of us spoke.

“Dad, your face is a funny shade of blue. Can I stop and get you a warm coffee?”

“I just want to go home, Pat. I really need to get home.”

“Okay, Dad. I’ll get us back to the shop as soon as I can. And Dad, what do I owe you for today?”

“You mean like money-wise. You want to pay me for this? I’ve helped you out before and we never talked about getting paid for it. So why now?”

“Dad, I couldn’t have gotten this done without you and to send a couple of guys up here on overtime tonight would have cost a ton of money. And I had promised  the customer this would get done before 5:00 today. This weather thing is pretty brutal, too, so if you think I owe you something, I think it would be okay to say so.”

“My son, you need to to know that I respect you and am quite proud of you. You have built a solid business from scratch in less than five years and there is a special feeling that a father gets when he is able to help one of his kids out in a time of need. I have always felt a special bond with you and your sisters. I love you guys and no matter what, I want you kids to know you can count on me. That I’ll always be here for you. It’s just part of being a good father.”

As we drove on through the blizzard with snow blowing in through the open window it went silent for maybe five to seven minutes and then…

“I appreciate that, Dad, and I know Amy and Beth do, too. So can I just ask you just one more question?”

“Of course, my son.”

“So what are you doing tomorrow?”

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of Glass.com, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

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