I remember those cold mornings when my dad would leave for work. He drove a dump truck for a local company. The morning he died, he was working. An accident, the impact breaking his neck, crushing him. My mother was at her housekeeping job when the police came, informing her that her husband was dead. Married twenty-five years. He was forty-four years old. Mom's boss gave her a ride home, and Mom had to tell me that my father was dead. I didn't see him again until he was in his coffin at the funeral home that afternoon. My restless, thoughtless, charming father, nothing more than a well-dressed, mannequin version of himself in a box.
My mother quit working months later, preferring to stay home. We were all right financially; the house was paid off and all of my brothers had moved out. I was the only kid left at home, a sixteen year old who was still trying to figure out what the Hell happened. Confused, insecure, bored, and afraid. My dreams of acting and writing became more important because I wanted something to look forward to, something that would fill the hole in my heart. I didn't care about school or a job or friends. I froze in place for awhile.
I didn't get my first 'real' job until I was almost twenty-one years old, washing dishes at a restaurant. A summer job, so I didn't plan on sticking around, but that was my first encounter of meeting women who were trying to survive on their wages and tips. I always knew that women worked hard, too, but something had changed with my generation that had nothing to do with how our parents had lived their lives. Those babies from the 1960s and '70s, now grown, already knew they were going to earn less money than their parents, experiencing a lower standard of life. More of us were doing time in jail and, along with drug addiction and HIV/AIDS, were the crosses we beared. A solid work ethic could hardly flourish where there was no work. I could hide behind the role of young slacker, much to the disappointment of my mother, who had expected me to get married before the age of twenty-five.