Thoughts on Work Ethic, My Grandfather’s Hands, and Stone Cold Winters

We all love to talk about our jobs, our work. How much we love them, loathe them, or how boring they can be. The subject of jobs is, and probably always will be, a hot button topic.

I’m a lot like other American workers. Most days on the job are palatable, but there are select others that can invoke me into anxiety and doubt.

We can all have one of those days.

Any day at the office can be less stellar than what you expect.

I’ve posted about gratitude here before, and also about if you don’t love your job, don’t worry about it. It’s not necessary to.

But when I have a day like today, I need something to turn it around mentally. And for that, I think about my grandparents. When I consider what they had to go through when they came to America from Italy, I know I have it pretty easy.

Pop and Nonna

When I consider what they had to go through to be successful in this country, I’m sure I have it easy.

I like to have days when I’m happy and enthusiastic about my work. With no negativity surrounding it. Which makes me sound like a sissy who likes to complain.

Because I’m sure if my grandparents wished for anything, it was a day when they weren’t knock down, drag out tired.

Both my grandparents worked in factories. My grandfather in manufacturing and my grandmother sewing collars on Arrow shirts. Primal, physical labor.

My grandfather worked on the railroad for a time, getting so dirty from the work that his wife didn’t recognize him as he was coming home, walking up the sidewalk towards her.

They both worked in restaurants as well, my grandmother waiting tables, and my grandfather behind a bar. He worked the bar at night, after his day job. He didn’t particularly like the work of being behind a bar and serving drinks (maybe because he was already tired), but he did things without much complaint, if any at all. When my grandparents gave their restaurant to my father in later years, both of them still worked there. They went to work well into their 80s. It was what they did.

You know that definition of “work ethic” in Webster’s dictionary? That’s my grandfather’s picture next to it.

We have had a rougher than normal winter here in the Northeast this year. Lots of snow, mind altering cold temps, and ice, ice, ice. Lately, I can’t go anywhere without my hat and gloves. Especially gloves.  As I get older myself, I seem to be more sensitive to the cold.

My grandfather never wore gloves. Ever. And those winters back when I was a kid were just like this one. Rough. He may have worn an overcoat, but there was no knit cap pulled down over his ears, either. If he had a hat on, it was a fedora. I can still see an image in my mind of him shoveling snow in cold, brutal weather with bare hands. Those huge, weathered, hard as rock hands never saw a glove. Not that I can remember.

He was one tough guy. And although I don’t think I could ever approach him on the toughness scale (I’ll keep my gloves on, thanks), I can emulate him and my grandmother a little bit by not crying about the job so much when things don’t go my way. And just keep going forward. That’s what they did so well.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Work Ethic, My Grandfather’s Hands, and Stone Cold Winters

    1. Hey Brian—
      Thanks for stopping by to comment. I use my grandparents’ influence each time I have a chance to guide my own kids in their choices and values. Makes me a better parent to use these great lessons.

  1. Hi Joe

    Interesting article – it can be hard to write about personal stuff. I think that the old fashioned work ethic is something that’s dwindling in society – and it’s a shame.

    it’s something I try to instill in my kids – mostly by example. Because you don’t get anything without hard work – and if they can learn the lesson now without really learning it, they’ll be better equipped later on in life.

    Cool stuff.


    1. Hey Paul
      Thanks for stopping by to read. I like writing articles with a little “personal touch”. Consider it a double whammy of grabbing some useful info with getting to know a bit about the writer.
      Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for reading Marcus. My grandparents were probably not aware of it, but they were involved in many “teachable moments” that did affect others greatly. I’m sure I’m just one of many to this day that reap the benefits.

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