May ’23 Elevator Constructor

Local 17 article for the May 2023 Constructor

Brothers and Sisters:

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about family. It hasn’t been one particular incident that sparked the thought but, rather a feeling which raised the question: what is family?

The traditional view of family is the group of people into which a person is born: mother father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in any combination. This is the group which a child creates their initial identity and forms their vision of their place in the world. This is the group to which they belong.

Many years ago in these pages I wrote something very similar on this subject. My conclusion was that family is something that evolves over time to include not only the group into which you were born but, a greater group to which you want to belong or wants you to belong.

In March 2019 my granddaughter Gabby was born. Her birthday is one day before the date shared by my grandmother and son. My Granny was a wonderful, kind woman who gave me a love for authentic Old World food, inspired wonder in the world and looked over me from above at age 49 as I completed the bike ride from Cleveland to Cincinnati along US 42 I traced on the Sohio folding map when I was age seven. My son was an outgoing, extremely friendly young man who enjoyed listening to baseball, music, playing all sorts of games and hoped for a family of his own. He left us too soon.

I think about them both all the time, especially in the spring. I think about planting flowers with my Granny and throwing the ball with my son. I miss them both.

Shortly after Gabby as born, I got a call from my son’s friend Chris that he was coming home to Cleveland from Dallas and he was bringing his family. Jon and Chris had been best friends since the age of six. They caught frogs, turtles and snakes together, played games together, rode bikes together, adventured together. Jon and Chris: always together.

On June 1, 2019, after the Union golf outing, my daughter Michele had a party at her house in Columbia Station. I left the outing as soon as I could. When I walked in the house the first person I saw was Chris. He was older, a little heavier, had a beard, but there was no denying it was him. We hugged a long hug that said ‘welcome home’ without either of us having to use the words.

I sat for hours listening to him talk about about Dallas and his life in Texas. I met his wife and three children: two girls and a boy. I always thought of him as a second son and seeing him as an adult with his family fills me with a happiness I cannot put into words.

The four of us, Jon, Michele, Chris and myself sang “Rosalita” as loud and long as we could. The family was back together. Chris was home.

My wife watches Gabby a couple days a week. It has been the greatest joy of my life watching to two of them together. Gabby calls my wife Magga and I’m Papa. Gabby and Magga grow flowers together, make chalk drawings on the driveway together, play games together, read together and go on adventures together.

The other day I came home from work, washed up and took a seat in my chair. My wife was sitting with Gabby, her arm about her reading a book, the two of them in a moment only the two of them could share. How will Gabby’s world be defined? What will be the group with which she defines herself? How big will her world be? Grandmother and granddaughter, always together.

Until next month,

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.


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