Generations. . .

I grew up in a working class, blue collar family. My father was a construction worker until he died when I was 16. He was a union sheet metal journeyman, based out of Salt Lake local 312. He was an avid bowler, drinker, smoker and card player. He used to sing all the time. He would make up songs as he walked around the house, generally taking common tunes and singing conversational words and phrases to them. His favourite musician was Elvis Presley and overall genre was country western. Throughout my childhood, I remember hearing Hank Williams and Johnny Cash more than any other singers, outside of the King.

He was a bowler, probably more than anything. He bowled in leagues at least 2 nights per week, sometimes three, and as much as I can remember, there may have been seasons when we has on the lanes as many as 5 nights at a time. When I got into my tween and teen years, I would go with him. Those were the highlights of my adolescence. Occasionally, the guys would all go out to dinner (or breakfast) after the leagues ended. The nights I went were the best. Just me and all these guys at Dee’s at midnight. I felt so damned cool.

He worked his ass off for his family and his bowling, and looked years older than he was. He lived a hard life – much of it self imposed. He did not take very good care of himself. He died at 56 – not old. He got in fights, he drank and he smoked packs a day up until just a few months before he died. (He started up agian on his death bed. Really, why not?) One weekend, he came home from a job in Vernal – he was working on the Moon Lake power plant. The story I heard (who knows how much of it is true) is that he and two of his buddies had stopped for gas. A couple of oil riggers came over and started causing trouble, so my father stepped in to help out. As he stepped out of the truck, he was hit in the head with a piece of wood; probably a 2×4. He looked like shit by the time he got home. His eye was swollen, he had stitches . . . he was lucky he didn’t go blind – or worse.

The Eddie Bennett I remember was a gentle, jovial man who loved everyone and would do anything for anyone, sometimes at the expense of his own family. Everyone I know, who knew him, loved him. He would word a grueling 8 or 9 hours and still find time to play catch with me on weeknights. The nightly routine was just that – routine. Home around 4:45, eat dinner at 5:00ish, and watch the news. Then it was Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. My mom always won at Wheel, and I always won at Jeopardy. I had potential, boy I tell you what. After dinner, we’d play cards or dice while watching TV, and once in a while, we’d do something like catch in the front yard for a while.

My father was also a Democrat. Every 4 years, without missing a beat, he voted. And he voted Democrat, nothing else. I remember him telling me once it took him a total of all but about 10 seconds to cast his ballot. He would walk into the booth with his stylus, punch the top button that read “Democrat” and walk back out. I asked him why and he never hesitated to tell me, because Democrats care about people. I’ve always been political. I think he is the reason. My mother never even registered to vote. I remember the 1984 elections – I was 9. I really remember Bush/Dukakis in 1988 – I was in 8th grade. By 1992, my father was dead. Democrats, he said, worked to help people like us. People who didn’t have much and worked hard for what they had. Republicans, I was taught, cared more about money than people. They were the big businessmen who cared more about padding their pockets than taking care of their employees. I believed him – he was my dad. My whole family, as far as I knew, voted Democrat. I mean, we were all hard working people. Hell, most of us were in sheet metal. And we had to work hard, we didn’t have to luxury of being Republicans. Once, in elementary school, I had a friend, Billy Dubbeld, Jr., who’s father did something in the construction trades. I remember having an argument with him because his family voted Republican even though they were a working class family. It did not make sense to me – in fact, I though he was lying. He wasn’t. The Dubbelds really are a conservative bunch. . . I did not understand it in the early 1980s and frankly, I still don’t understand it.

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~ by shinshige on 17 December 2009.

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