I really enjoyed Andre Dubus’ essay Digging. I felt like it mirrored my relationship with my dad almost to a tee. My dad is an extremely proud person and he definitely prides himself on building his business from nothing and strongly emphasizes hard work. My dad owns a construction company, and every Summer and Winter break, since i was about sixteen, I’ve spent many hours enduring extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, to earn my money. I can relate to Dubus in his trying to “fit in” with the workers, as I tried to do the same thing. It was always important to me, to never be coddled or be looked at as “the bosses son”. So I too jumped right in with the workers, lugging plywood up ladders and stacking countless studs and rafters, learning to cut, rip, snap, scribe and swing a hammer. As soon as we leave the house at 5:45 am to make the daily commute to Montauk, right up until we pull in the driveway at 5:30 pm, I’m treated almost as an employee. It’s extremely hard, almost impossible, to get any positive reinforcement from my dad, or to have him commend my good work. I know this because he would say so regarding other employees, and that he doesn’t want to “blow smoke up their ass” and have them get too comfortable or lazy. There’s so few times I received any praise, that I can pretty much recall every single one. I don’t resent him for this though, not at all. I think it’s a good thing, and that if it’s taught me anything, it would be that “good enough”, is simply not good enough, and to strive for perfection in all my endeavors

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3 Responses to Digging

  1. ktbmuether says:

    I can definitely relate to this! I work for my dad as well. Everyone always thinks that working for a parent means that you have it easy, but I would definitely beg to differ! First of all, as you mentioned, the other employees treat you differently and are more cautious around you. It gets better over time, but you never fully assimilate with them. As with the relationship with your dad/boss, it’s always strange.. they treat you like a normal worker, but it feels so strange because you both leave from and go home to the same place. I too rarely get compliments from my Dad on my hard work, probably because he doesn’t want to seem like he favors me. However, at the same time, it’s a strange feeling. My Dad is so supportive and proud at home, but at work, compliments are rare and it feels like he’s not the same Dad. You’re right, though, when they do give that positive reinforcement, it only makes you want to work harder. They’re teaching us a good lesson. It is weird stepping out of daughter mode and into worker mode, though.

  2. Chuck,
    Wow, really interesting post! I can see how you would relate to Andre Dubus’s piece, because you have been i the same situation with your father. This essay as a whole reminded me of the American social more of honest hard work and the satisfaction with which it fills you. In this way, Dubus’s essay reminds me of the David Foster Wallace piece we read called Shipping Out. Both authors value the hard work and disdain people who just want to sit back, relax, and be pampered. It was really interesting that you mentioned the early morning commute and 12 hour work-day at the company. While working in the construction business, did you ever feel like you want to just go home and step into your comfort zone? Even though Dubus came to appreciate his father’s stern-ness and being pushed to work hard, he was very resigned and opposed to it first. This leads me to ask: at what point does this change happen? When does a person realize that they actually love something that they previously resented or were resigned about doing?

    • cjchumas says:

      To answer some of your questions: While at work, I never really feel the urge to let down my “guard” as an employee and step into that father-son comfort zone. It’s almost involuntary in that i’ve become so accustomed to this way of life. It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I think i enjoy the change of pace and being able to have two separate relationships, in one of which i have a mentor/teacher and the other a father.

      I’ll admit, it took me a while to appreciate my dad’s own rigidity, and i would even go as far as to say that I still don’t fully embrace it. I guess this would be where the notion of “tough love” comes into play. I wouldn’t call it a love of his sternness, it’s more of a reluctant appreciation, which i came to terms with when i was old enough to realize that his actions and pressing work ethic were for my own good.

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