Many, many, many years ago, my dad worked with grapes. And sugar cane. I have pictures of the burning of the cane fields but I do not have any photos of my dad in the fields whilst they were burning, which is a good thing when you think about it.
The fact that my father has lived this long is amazing to me for several reasons:
(1) His Aunt Joyce tells the story that he was born sick and basically sent home from the hospital with the instructions to just love him until he passes. (As a mother myself I simply cannot imagine.)
(2) As a young boy he had open heart surgery. Which back in the day was pretty gory. Growing up the scars would both amaze and scare me every time I saw him with his shirt off. I was convinced he was a pirate on Captian Hook's ship and had got in a fight with the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. (Obviously I was not well versed in fairy tales.) (Also, I've always been deathly afraid of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk thanks very much to my aunt from Australia who sent us the book. The nightmares I had!)
(3) As a young teen, he was involved in a very, very serious car accident, of which a single shard of windshield glass was missed during the hospital removal process and instead of working its way out, worked its way in. It was discovered and removed sometime in his 50's, I believe. He lived through the accident and he lived through what I feared would be a brain tumor. (And the headaches stopped. Imagine that.)
(4) One day he decided to show us kids how to properly ride our dirt bike (a massive machine way too large for the likes of his scrawny children). Show us he did... right into the metal fencing which wrapped itself through and around his leg. Friends of my sister's happened to be driving by and helped cut him out of the fence. (Timmy Blackman, Todd Rodgers - do you remember this?) He then hobbled to the farm house and locked himself in the bathroom where he decided to slowly bleed out in the bathtub before one of us kids were concerned enough to call our mother who was at work. (We may or may not have been the most safety conscious of children.) He had more stitches than I could count.
Now, 45 years, 4 kids, and 7 grandchildren later, I wonder how many times he wishes he could go back and hide amongst the safety of the grapes. Actually, I'm surprised he didn't cut his arm off with the vine clippers.
By the way, his nickname for me growing up was "BJ-Joe go slow." I know. It's lame. Especially since I was hardly the last one out the door. He'd call me that even when I was the first one sitting in the car waiting by myself.
And also, I would just like to point out that it is not cool to name your daughter something where her initials drum up images of a sexual act. If you do not know what sort of sexual act "BJ" drums up then google it. Or ask Nick Hanssen. He's the one that explained it to me on the bus when I was in the 4th grade.
Update: I talked to my mother (not my father, because he doesn't give details) and was told that the scary open heart surgery scars were not open heart surgery scars at all, but the scars from a surgery for Pyloric Stenosis that was done on his stomach when he was just a teeny, tiny couple of months old baby. Apparently he was not able to keep milk down, wasn't growing and something obviously needed to be done, but he was too tiny for the hospital beds. They built a "wooden cross" to tie him on and keep him straight, and not curled up (as babies tend to do), so they could do surgery on his stomach. THOSE are the scary scars of my youth.
My mother also said he never had heart surgery - which is entirely possible. We don't exactly speak openly and give out information and details about each other, so what I conjured up in the mind of my childhood has probably been gleaned from overheard, hushed conversations that I was too immature to comprehend, so I put them in boxes I could recognize and understand. I went to school with a girl who had open heart surgery, so perhaps I just assumed it was a heart surgery he had. (I'm making a note to ask him; although he hates being asked questions.)
To understand the way our family communicated I'll provide you an example of something that happened when I was in my early 20's:
The phone rang late at night. It was my mother. "I just wanted to tell you that we'll be staying the night because you're father didn't do well pulling out of surgery and he's in ICU."
"Okay.... umm... why was my father in surgery?"