O: Jim’s Factory


I once heard a story, about a boy who got into more trouble then he knew what to do with. He fought with his brother, avoided his mother, and watched his father in the garage. As years past the boy sat in class, mastered his skills, but rarely interacted in the rooms. He knew the pot dealers, held his own parties, and even found a way to charge admission with his brother. He was a gear head, a grease monkey, always trying out a new idea. Unfortunately, like every other soul in the world that wishes to move on he too had to find employment.

At 16 years of age he started sweeping paper. Just scraps, pieces of paper cut from massive machines, something his father had worked on. Tireless, without complaint, he made his money, swept his scraps, and kept working day to day. As he grew older, the company of paper continued to expand and he increased his involvement within the company. He worked as a die cutter, a pressman, and even in the glue room occasionally. He joined the Teamsters Union, not fully getting what the point of that was, and made friends with those who came and went with this company, but he always stayed. Sure, there were other job openings, new beginnings around each corner. From church cleaning to box packing; there was something always available, but he always stayed with the company. In recent years, with economic woes, he took the hits, watched his friends leave, but kept his family his priority. He continued to work. In the building with no air conditioning, the building that smashed his fingers, and even caused him to fall off a stage onto the concrete floor, he always worked. He took his friends fishing once a year for several years, just a weekend on the lake. As the years passed, one by one those friends disappeared, but even without them or even the fishing, he kept working.

Thirty years and more passed, his loyalty never waved. His wife laid in the bed with cancer, and he made it a priority to work in the factory, drive sixty miles south to the hospital, stay with her all day, and head back to work the next day, for months. His family came first, and he stayed with the company to ensure it.

As age came, so did changed, the company switched ownership, new clients came in, and the presses kept running. Every so often there’d be a hiccup in the financials for the plant and paychecks were hit, but that never stopped him from working. 8 hours, 10 hours, even 12 hour shifts ranging from five to six to seven days a week; he never stopped working, always followed orders, and would get up no matter what hour of the day it was.

33 years since the boy brushed the papers along the floor and he still stands there today. He’s a pressman, running one of the massive machines in the plant. He’ll do it for 19 more days.

It was announced last week that June 7th, 2013 would be the last day the company existed. Many clients outsourced to the state of New York from the new owners of a couple years. Everyone would be let go, pensions are practically gone, 401k’s are non-existent and retirement is out of the question. Severance packages would exist, but that massive box at Leonard Road and Easton-Saxton will not make a noise again once that day passes.

With 30+ years of experience, technical school training, but no college degree, where will he go? What will he do to ensure his family stays number one?

Sometimes in life I really do wish that soccer was the only stress that I experience. I’m sure everyone else would agree to have that one item to stress them out, but for everything else to run smoothly. I’ve been thinking over the past several days about this post, and the anger that comes with it. I was informed last Tuesday that Jim’s plant; Climax Packaging [St. Joseph Packaging] is closing on June 7th, 2013 for good; leaving Jim without a job. It has been eating at me for days, even causing a lack of sleep in several instances. I’ll brag on him in this post [because he’d never do it himself], he is one of the hardest working blue collar individuals I’ve ever met. When I first met him [when I was 5] he had a black beard, cut-off black t-shirt, overalls, and carried his lunch in what used to be a tool box. He was one terrifying dude, and to this day that unspoken respect still stands in my mind at a level I didn’t even know existed. He tied my shoes before my first ‘competitive’ mile, made my breakfast nearly every school day for six years, and was the person who took me to every single recreational soccer game as a kid [MC had to work on Saturday’s at that time, so don’t judge her]. Rather quiet, he unintentionally made  a impact on my life of what a God fearing leader looks like. They don’t always have to be loud with words, because their actions easily make up for them.

The story of Jim and the company, which is very real, translates directly into my approach of soccer. Jim is quiet, from the inner section of St. Joseph, Missouri, wasn’t born with a lot of money, never had a lot of money, never complained about not having a lot of money. He sacrificed so much to put up with a high school brat, while his wife…who he loves unconditionally…was dealing with her body trying to fight cancer; three years before being diagnosed. Those hours he worked, noted above? He worked second jobs throughout the seasons to cover expenses and try to latch onto dreams of a better future for him and MC. He never gave up, was never intimidated by the white collar world, rich jerks, or anything else of the sorts. He is Phil from Duck Dynasty in ways that appear frightening.

I’ve felt gut wrenching awful since hearing about the plant closing. A few days later he was moving my girlfriends car to get his motorcycle out, and the car slipped off the jack and wound up denting the radiator. He called me, explaining what had happened and he’d find a way to buy a new radiator for her. I mean…that poor man felt terrible. After already being crushed with my divorce [he took it worse then MC did], he’s careful with my current relationship [he has no reason to, she love him]. So, I tried to calm him down, she tried to calm him down, MC finally got him calmed down and my heart broke that much more. The world of this man, outside of his family, was spinning out of control and it wasn’t his fault. I mean, he stopped smoking cold turkey just because MC asked him too before they got married. He has his flaws, like all of us, but I’ve never met a human to give so much, sacrifice so much, and believe so much in people…period. He knows very little about soccer, but he loves the Kansas City Shock. He talks about, which just about puts me in tears every time, because I know I’m making him proud.

The Kansas City Shock is in many ways a gift to Kansas City, that was the idea, but it was also a gift to my parents. They’ve watched this thing, they’ve seen the errors, misfortunes, and heartache, but they still believed in me. I work hard, and I lose sleep, because I learned from the best. I learned that you work hard, complain little, and try to help as many people around you as humanly possible. Jim’s behaviors and lessons are dotted throughout this program. Everyone is welcome, he’d never turn someone away. Sleep is lost getting work done, because Jim would do the same thing. The program, unlike so many other soccer programs, isn’t catered to the rich, soccer elite of the area [there, I finally said it]. It’s designed for the hard working, back breaking people who believe that they’re never noticed. They’re like Jim, getting tossed around, but trying to better their lives and those around them. Many of our players would relate well with Jim.

I guess I’m proud to say that I’ve cried through the typing of this entire thing tonight. I could barely keep myself together at MC’s and his house tonight. Why? Because it hurts. Because this guy gave me so much, and the one time, the one time he needs help; I can’t do anything. I can’t save the plant, I can’t buy the company, and I can’t even find him a job. If there is anyone that deserves vacation it is him and MC. I’m not overly sure how to do it, but I’ve got to give back to him. He deserves the attention, recognition, and the peace. Is it alright to say that I just want to help? That one day I just want to present a massive check to my parents and say, “Enjoy the relaxation. It’s taken care of?” Doesn’t Jim deserve to breathe a little easier? Laugh a little more? Actually go fishing again?

I thought this piece would go in the direction of anger; lashing out at the stupid company that outsourced the jobs in Jim’s plant, closing the place down. I am still angry about that; especially on the business side of things. However, thinking back to all of it; I made sure that I was free tonight after work to relax at my parents house. No matter how old I am, or bad mood I’m in, I know I’m safe there. I know that Jim will reheat his coffee, he’ll sit in his chair, and Scamper [his cat] will hop up on him and go to sleep [affectionately referred to as ‘sweep-sweep time’]. That’s comfort, that’s home, and I don’t want the stupidity of someone else put any of that at risk.

I just want Jim to be happy, happy, happy.

-D-

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X: MC


Honestly, I was going to write tonight about the concept of stress, frustrations, questions to God, and everything else that is created with fried chicken and coffee late at night.

However, as I stumbled into my bed, getting ready for another business trip down to Southeast Kansas tomorrow morning; I was greeted by a box of chocolate and a Valentine’s Day Card.

Please understand, I hate Valentine’s Day; all for selfish, childish reasons, but I’ve always despised this day. While I was married it was because of the thought, “If you have to wait until one specific day of the year to be sweet, you lose”, while I was single it was, “What a bunch of loser. Better to waste your money than mine.”

Truthfully; it was because I was just lonely and just not like anyone else.

With that said, there is a rather strange constant within my life that runs in line with the over celebrated, under spent, forever Dutch holiday:

MC

For one reason or another, my mother always has done something for me for Valentine’s Day; whether it was the WOW CD’s through the early 2000’s, or chocolate covered cherries as a kid [you have no idea]. MC always had something for me. I guess to many it would come to no surprise that this box of chocolate on my bed was indeed from the sneaky woman as well.

In turn; and to the world, I’m just going to tip my hat to the world’s greatest mother and explain a little bit about our…unique…relationship.

MC and myself are so similar it is disturbing in some cases. Both of us are always right and we consistently argue. Our ‘logic’ is undeniable, and between her botany and my meteorology ‘hobbies’, how we have friends at all still stands as a mystery.

Truthfully though, I’m a ‘mamma’s boy’, that woman has saved my skin so many times [and tanned it] that I lost count years ago. However, what is frequently not addressed, due to the humble nature of her, is what makes her a crazy, cracked out, insanely caring mother.

She. Never. Gave. Up.

MC, though I will not give an age, is 6’0 tall, and for her age that is really saying something [it’s saying ‘corn fed’], and she utilized it to her advantage on the basketball court.

This was before Title XI was passed.

MC ended up going to college right after Title XI [athletic equality], and literally has seen the vast progression of women’s athletics from its git-go to the point it is at now [enter my unique taste of women’s soccer]. MC was a coach and a teacher; a scary good coach from what I’ve been told through the years. She loves the outside world, hates being cooped up inside, but would never deny a Pepsi, popcorn, and a bad movie on television [even worse; CSI]. I think deep down she’d much rather be out in the countryside on a farm, but her garden tends to keep those emotions from over running [us].

Mom married dad some years ago, moved out to western Kansas, worked at Arby’s [literally, food industry and myself, it was destined] for years, substitute taught, got pregnant with me [joy], and moved to the other side of the state of Kansas. I was born in ’87, we lived in a small trailer in a trailer park next to some railroad tracks [active] and a steel factory in a town of 1,000. Looking back, we had absolutely nothing, by the time dad left she was working two jobs, I was hanging out with her while she was on shift at McDonald’s, and we were barely [and sometimes not] making it. Dad, frankly, was a jerk to her during and after the divorce [hence why I try to control my tongue], and in many ways between dad and being all around disowned by her own family [because she married dad, who wasn’t “good enough”], mom was all alone with a little kid.

I never once saw her cry from frustration. Mom didn’t drink, smoke, chew, yell, or break things [on purpose]. She kept composure and fought through everything the world through her way, including the lumberjack looking Paul Bunyan lookalike that we all now affectionately refer to as Jim. They dated for less than a month before they got married, they’re 20th anniversary is this year. The waters came in ’93 and washed our home, mom never cried in front of me. We lived in some shady areas afterwards [mom, due to the divorce had filed for bankruptcy and you know the affect that has one being able to obtain certain things, like a house], but we finally came out to where they currently live to this day [a house smaller than the trailer, but with double the lot size, hence the garden]. A few years into our ‘new life’ [seems like a constant theme of mine], mom had several miscarriages and ended up in surgery. She never demonstrated the emotion in front of me, but truthfully, I think it broke her heart. She rarely made it to my soccer games on Saturday’s because she was working for a company that involved driving for hours from business to business delivery and picking up boxes [prior to UPS], she never came out and said it, but I think it hurt her that she wasn’t there all the time.

By middle school we ‘hated’ each other, mom dragged me to church on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s. Jim went with us, and eventually it became routine, she never forced me into a sports program [I chose soccer], but she encouraged me to try mission trips [yep, that’s where that came from also], and church camp. She never forced me to partake in speech/debate, but also suggested that I stand up for myself and speak my mind [uh-hu]. Unfortunately, due to my arrogance and our similarities there was much fighting within our household. Just constant arguments about money, savings, jobs; things to this day I still feel like I failed at in her eyes. Additionally, not being the amazing athlete that her [and the rest of the family] put a bit more pressure on me. I was dead set on impressing my mother, I had to.

By high school mom was wearing out, summer’s were hard on her, she was starting to stop sweating; and a few times I got called out of school because mom was in the hospital.

No one knew what was wrong. Because of that, mom had to attempt to work and because there was no diagnoses, she couldn’t collect from her insurance to cover the bills. Health bills are extremely expensive. Jim was working two jobs, mom was trying to work her job, while tolerating me, a teenager [*shudders*], and still being as involved as possible.

I’ll never forget the day I walked into the house, one summer afternoon, mom was in the kitchen, hung up the phone and sobbing said, “No one gives a [insert certain word] about me.”

My divorce wasn’t even as heartbreaking as hearing those words.

It was the first time I remember mom crying, and it wasn’t that long ago. Mom made it to my graduation, but limited on sporting events, and never saw a single speech/debate meet [partly due to my arrogance of asking her not to come, because when she was present, I got so nervous I failed…miserably].

My freshmen year of college, while sitting on my bed in my dorm, mom told me that she had gone to the doctor and they knew what the problem was.

In the stupid tense I stated, “So…what kind of cancer is it?”

They’re not sure yet.

I dropped the phone. I had been joking, I seriously didn’t think that MC would have cancer. She couldn’t, she’s my mom, she’s strong, terrifying, she beat me, not Jim or dad. There’s no way the icon of my life could actually be that sick.

She was.

The ongoing months would involve radiation, the lack of Pepsi [a food group for MC], and random muskrats being found in the bathroom sink [wigs]. She was weak, sick, but beat it. Poor Jim was working 12 hours in his job up north, traveling down to the hospital, spending the night, and going back to work. With me in college, there were days in which the house was never visited. I can’t fathom its emptiness.

I stayed away for most of the cancer treatments because I couldn’t bring myself to see my mom helpless, it logically made absolutely no sense. I can’t even imagine how emotionally unbearable it was or her only child, that she raised, to not even be at her bedside.

I dropped the ball on that one.

By the time I graduated college, mom had finally gotten it all out of her system. She was laid off from her job when the economy dropped out [and the whole cancer deal was going on as well]. After the treatments mom got a job in a factory, and to this day she still has it, and loves it. I remember asking her why her, a college educated individual would do that kind of work. Her answer?

Because I can. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do this again.

MC is a God fearing woman, but expects the best out of everyone. She was very proud of me the day I graduated college, and while lacking emotional output, was ecstatic when I proposed [I think my lack of a relationship life seriously worried her for years], and enjoyed the whole wedding preparation experience [including making the most amazing wedding cake ever seen by man].

The second time I heard mom cry was when I told her my ex-wife had left and filed for divorce. Not because she was upset with the whole circumstance, but because I was 180 miles away and she told me over the phone;

They don’t know you. They just don’t know you. They don’t know you.

Like a child beaten down from the bullies in school, my mother did everything humanly possible to protect me during my divorce. She never said a single negative thing about my ex-wife, but her heart was shattered. When she saw how I was living in the apartment prior to moving up here, she nearly started crying again when she hugged me and said, “I’m sorry.”

While typing this, I had no idea how emotionally attached I am to MC as many instances I’m attempting to fight back tears.

Mom and Jim don’t have a whole lot, but as stated in several posts throughout this site, they gave it all just to bring me back home; for protection.

She. Never. Gave. Up.

She never gave up on me.

My mother is a deer shooting, gun toting, motorcycle driving maniac. She was a choir director, Sunday school teacher, and school room teacher. She doesn’t yell, her voice gets lower, and if the Pepsi is not properly mixed in a gas station; she’s going to let you know.

As this night ends, and the next day begins. I know where this gift is going this time.

To MC.

Forever this kid’s Valentine.

-D-

I need a Kleenex… 

The lovely couple; MC and Jim