When I was a kid I got to help my dad fix things around the house. I say got to, but really mean had to. I never liked it. I never wanted to help him. He was mean and gruff, and so damn demanding. I didn’t realize that this was his way of teaching me about life. I just thought he was too cheap to hire someone, that he thought of me as free labor. Life was so unfair for me as a child. Now I’d give anything to relive those moments. There were so few of them, mostly because as a helper I sucked. I wasn’t as bad as my sister, and because of that I was usually the one that got stuck helping. Plumbing, electrical work, concrete, roofing – you name it, he did it and I got stuck helping.
My dad could fix anything. I remember going to the Pittsburgh Zoo one time and my dad’s Oldsmobile over heated. He got out of the car, found a puddle of water and using an old paper coffee cup filled the radiator. It must of took him 50 to 100 trips from that puddle to his car, but he got us there. Another time, the old Datson pickup truck died. It had something to do with the distributor, I still have no idea what that is, but my old man fixed it by having me chew a piece of gum. He then peeled the foil away from the paper wrapper and using that foil, he fired that old beast up and drove us home. And I helped.
I can still hear him say, “When I say hand me a screwdriver, I mean by the handle, not by the blade.” Same with a hammer or any other tool. Hand it to him so that he can take it and use it without having to grip and re-grip the darn thing. And boy-oh-boy, if he said hold the light, he meant hold it where he wanted it and hold it still. I remember one time when we were fixing the electrical box. This might be the first time in my life that I said “we” were fixing anything. Back then it was him fixing and me helping. Anyway, he said hold the light. I wasn’t paying much attention. I was missing the Partridge Family show on TV and my heart wasn’t in the electrical job. I let the light swerve a little too much and felt my old man’s wrath in the form of a backhand across the face, illegal these days, but common then in South Wheeling. I can still hear him say, “I said hold it. That means hold it still.”
These days I find myself to be every bit as demanding as my old man was. I have been in business for myself for the past 33 years and I attribute my success to my father instilling a great work ethic and the understanding that the only way to get a job done is to do it. Here at Wheelhouse I find myself in a position similar to that of my father’s more than 40 years ago. I find myself teaching young people how to get things done and how to be successful. Just like my dad, I constantly fail to convey my message or meaning in a clear way. I expect them to learn from watching me and I don’t always explain what I’m doing. We have several young people here in the office. I love them dearly and I want nothing more than to help them. Sometimes they want my help and sometimes they don’t. I never know the difference. I just tell them to hold the damn light, no backhands though.
I have been working with a couple of our young women lately. They excel so quickly, much faster than I ever did. I instill wisdom (AKA a bunch of crap that I think is important) and they politely listen. They sometimes roll their eyes, but always listen. It is such an incredible rush to see them succeed. These girls are amazing, and I do not use that word lightly. One is an AE and the other is a social media specialist. Both are sponges wanting to absorb all they can. I pity the men who marry these two, because they know exactly what they want, and will accept nothing less. And I congratulate the clients lucky enough to have them on their accounts.
I recently met the father of one of these special women. He knew all about me. Knew my name, knew that I have been coaching his daughter. I’m sure she will be at least a little embarrassed when she reads this, but he said that his little girl thinks the world of me for the help I have offered. How am I supposed to take that? How can I not tear up a little when I hear something like that? So I recently told her that I wanted her to know why I do what I do. It isn’t for money. It isn’t part of my job description. I do it because it makes me feel good to see her succeed. I do it because I know how important it was to me when someone helped me. I do it because I love my dad, and now know what he was offering me. He wanted me to succeed, and he taught me the only way he knew how. So hold that damn light still, and make sure you hand off the tool handle first so that it is ready to grip.
Thank you, dad. Thank you, Wheelhouse. And thank you, Olivia Morgan and Brandi Richards. Those last two will go far – much farther than I ever did, because these two are very sharp young women, and mostly because I am such a good helper.