My dad is 62 years old. I joke to him that pretty soon, his salt and pepper beard is going to be all white like Santa Claus. Secretly, I wish his hair would stop graying.
He served 20 years in the U.S. Army, and when I was in the 3rd grade, he retired, but was hardly ready to leave the work force. He went on to do a stint as a security guard, manage a hospital cafeteria and finally settled into a job at a vending company, where he's been for almost, or maybe more than, two decades.
He goes to bed at 8 p.m. every weeknight, and wakes up at 2 in the morning. He aims to be in his vending truck by 3 at the latest so he can get on post -- he fills snack machines on the local military base -- before traffic gets thick. He also tries to get his work done early to beat the Georgia heat. Sometimes the air conditioning in his old truck, which he's named Maybelle, doesn't work well.
My dad likes his job. He cuts up with the people he sees on his route, and doesn't hesitate to buy a Honey Bun or candy bar for someone who looks like they need it. He edges on the verge of being a dirty old man, flirting, in between counting inventory, with female friends until they laugh. My dad, happily married for 40 years to my mom, laughs, too. It's all fun for him. Whatever it takes to make the work day pass along smoothly.
Some days, my dad doesn't get home until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Occasionally, it's earlier, occasionally it's later. But he works his ass off. By the end of the day, he's exhausted and usually unwinds by catching up on the day's events by watching CNN. My mom, who also works almost 12 hours a day, cooks him dinner every night except Mondays. Those days, he usually picks himself up something to eat on the way home. Chili dogs from Checkers are his favorite fast food.
My family has never been rich, nor have we aimed to be. My parents own their own home and cars -- nothing fancy. A few years ago, they bought a boat they're still making payments on. (They conveniently waited until I had moved away before making this purchase -- or maybe they could only afford it after they didn't have my mouth to worry about feeding.)
Like many Americans, my parents have credit card debt. They also have achy muscles every night from long hours on their feet, working for THE MAN.
Like many Americans, they're responsible, hard-working people who put in a lot of work hours just to maintain a somewhat comfortable, middle-class lifestyle.
So when I read a story about Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and his out-of-touch comment that "people need to work longer hours" to help grow the economy, I felt a ball of fury in my chest. I wish my parents, both nearing that magical, slowly disappearing age of retirement, could work fewer hours. I wish they didn't have to kill themselves Monday through Friday just to pay bills and have something to show for it.
Here's Bush's full answer to New Hampshire's The Union Leader's question about his plans for tax reform:
My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in.
One of his aides did backpedal and try to clarify the statement, saying the presidential hopeful was referring to underemployed and part-time workers. But the video leaves little opportunity for his comments to have been taken out of context, as Bush later told Dover News 9.
Instead of ending this post on a rant about how Jeb isn't any better than George W., and to have another Bush in the White House would surely bring about the destruction of all we middle and lower-class citizens cherish in life, I'll instead leave you with a photo of my adorable parents on the eve of their 40th wedding anniversary, which was eariler this week.