Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Dad's Worrying Box

By the time I entered high school in 1961 my family and I had lived in 15 different houses, nomads of a sort. Nineteen sixty-one was the year Dad finally bought his first home and we settled down in our two-story brick home on Blaine Avenue in Bradley, Illinois. Dad drove each day the hour long trip to Ford Motor Company Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights where he worked as a welder repairman. Up until that year Dad had often moved us from place to place as he found better paying jobs, or a new job after the old one had run out. 


He was a good provider for our family of six and mostly worked as a miner, mining coal, uranium, cobalt, and copper, low paying jobs requiring hard physical labor. Always renters, when we packed up and moved from place to place we only took with us our clothes and a few treasured items, no furniture, no pets, only what would fit into our automobile, for Dad never rented a U-haul.

After six years in the Navy during WWII, Dad came back home to southern Illinois and married Mom in 1946. He soon came up with a way to organize and store his important papers such as birth certificates, and car titles. He used an empty cardboard shoe box and dubbed it his “worrying box”, kept it close at hand. He felt strongly about paying bills on time so stored those papers in that box and when it came time to pay them he got the box out and that is when us kids saw it, became aware of its importance to him. I’m sure it was those debts that made him give it the name he did.

 Mike was two years old when his first memory of Dad’s worrying box was indelibly printed on his brain. As Mike recalls, “I was holding a glass of milk that I'd been drinking. Dad was on the bed going through the worrying box, when he picked up the little red ball from the jacks game and threw it at me, playfully, I suppose. I dropped the glass and it broke, I fell on the broken glass, cut my artery, ran to Mom in the kitchen, sat on the floor against a wall as blood spurted onto the wall. Mom said, you'd better take him to the country doctor. They tied a tourniquet around my arm and took me to the doctor for stitches.” Mike still has a noticeable scar on that wrist, and a vivid memory of Dad’s worrying box.

Fran remembers how Dad would bring the box out from where he hid it, place it on his bed, and thumb through it, commenting on what he found in there. We have tried to remember if there were photographs, too, maybe his Navy bracelet, a pack of cigarettes, pens and pencils. What we do recall is how personal it was, much like a woman’s purse is to her, not something us kids were allowed access to. Mom had a round metal can with tight fitting lid where she stored treasured family photographs. Often she opened up that can and showed the pictures to us, even let us rifle through them ourselves. But Dad’s worrying box was his and his alone.

All these years later, I have my own worrying box, perched on my shoulders, residing in my head. If only I could remove it from there, place it on a shelf in my closet like Dad did, and bring it out when needed.

Our Dad is gone now since his death in 1995, but when the three of us get together, Fran, Mike, and Pam, he is there, no doubt about it. His impact on us, in shaping our morals and influencing our lifestyles is obvious. This memory of his worrying box was one that Fran wanted saved and shared.