Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Morning Thanks--Phil

Fifty years after it went out of style, he still wore his hair--great hair, by the way--in a duck tail. Had he let it grow only a little more, he might have passed for Sikh and never worn a turban. He was the quintessential fifties guy, loved cars, and never really stopping lovin' cruisin'. 

He could spend hours in his own garage, stoking a pipe maybe, tinkering, keeping the dust off his buggy, cleaning up. Quiet, meticulous to a fault, he arranged his life the way he did his shop, not a thing left carelessly where it shouldn't have been.

He had opinions, I suppose, but he certainly didn't air them all over creation. You had to work to get them out of him, if they ever made it off the rack at all. That he wasn't particularly opinionated may well help explain how it was he was pretty much satisfied with the way life had worked itself. He never wanted much more than he had. We should all be so blessed.

I lived in his basement for a couple of months when I was a college kid, did so because he was gone, in the military. It was 1968, and there were others from the small town who were gone, some of them called up with the National Guard. There were women living upstairs in his house back then, some GIs' wives, including his. We got along well, sometimes flirted a little.

He was a townie who, early Sixties, managed to pick up a college girl, got her into his buggy somehow--maybe it was that duck tail--and she never left. In the Iowa village where he'd been born and reared, the two of them had three kids and no huge problems. Sweet and wonderful grandkids too. Life is good, he might have said, if he'd say much at all. Mostly, he just smiled.

His communications specialty in his Army years translated into a job with the phone company when he returned to his wife and the house with the rental basement. He fixed phones every day of his working life--yours, mine, and the neighbor's. Had his own truck, rigged up thoughtfully with the tools he was going to need to get the job done, all of them in perfect order. Of that you can be sure.

He hung around the college where I taught because he was the phone guy for the entire institutional system. Phones were big and mechanical then--rotary dial, the kind you have to go to a museum to see. Then push buttons replaced the old ones, got sleek and had memory. Technology took a jump into the next century. Just about then, he retired. 

The truth is, he had more health problems than most of us will ever see. That hefty tool belt he will always wear in my memory circled a girth so slight that you couldn't help wonder where he found belts that small. He was our phone guy. Got a problem, call Phil. Won't slay you with gabbing either. He'll just get the job done. Big smile. In the twilight of his phone company job, he was always around. 

You don't think much about people like him until they're gone, and you start to remember how it was they were there when you needed them. Some knew him as a father, a brother, a grandpa. Some knew him from work. Some knew him because, like him, they loved cars, preferably old ones, one of those from American GraffitiAnd some of us, like me, knew him only because he was a servant, which is, biblically speaking, a noble calling, even if we often forget as much.

This morning, once again, snow is falling, as it is in the cemetery where his mortal coil has now been laid to rest, same town he was born in. If he'd been Native, he'd be wearing his tool belt right now. 

This morning, the morning after his funeral, I'm thankful for him and his quiet life, and for so many others whose service is epic, whose servanthood--what a biblical word that is--we still too easily take for granted.  


David said...

Thanks for the lovely reflection.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your remembering Phil.

I also knew a few local reservists who got shipped to VietNam in 1968.

As Tish said a few Mondays ago "everyone wants to start the revolution and no one wants to do the dishes."

And quite waters can run deep. As Admiral Kidd told his men in 1967 b4 he exiled them (one of whom is domiciled locally), "If any of you guys talk about what you saw, you will be in jail or worse."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post Jerry. I wonder how many locals can tell a similar story. See you soon.

Jerry27 said...

I did have an Uncle which I wish I had spent more time with. He sent his kids to Dordt, 4 of whom became medical docters.

My Mom said German POW were amazed he could talk to them.

He wrote that the Germans stole his troop's machine gun during the day. It was only manned during the night and not watched during daylight hours.

He missed the Battle of the Bulge, because of his purple heart.


Jerry27 said...

Michael Campbell made an interesting observation about Amelia Earhart in his recent interview.

He said few cared about 100 million Eastern Europeans put under Soviet Union at Yalta.

He thinks it would be the end of the FDR legacy if people could accept that she was knowingly abandoned to the Samurai 4 years b4 Pearl Harbor.

Kipling may have glimpsed things in "When the Saxon began to hate."


Jerry27 said...

"I wonder how many locals can tell a similar story."

I do not want to distract from the remembernce of Phil -- the phone guy.

I do have a collection of local veterans and the "war as they knew it." In this surveillance society, maybe there is a place I could get surveilled for listening to what veterns had to say about "war as they knew it." It seems to be true that the public has been conditioned with a Pavlovian response when it comes war fever. What is the point of resisting?

Thanks for the lovely reflection.