Saturday afternoon, Fanni and I headed back to my Mom and Dad’s for an early Mothers’ Day celebration with my whole family. While there, we opened up some old photo albums to compare Ella with baby pictures of the previous generation Bartnik Clan. Her resemblance to each of us was striking, but what I couldn’t get over was my father in the pictures. Strong and trim, with jet black hair, dark glasses, classic fumanchu moustache, and handful of kids, he was quite the sight.
There were pictures of him napping in his chair with little me on his chest, or hanging out while my older brothers rode bike around the driveway, or overseeing a work crew fixing the roof of the garage where he’d run his business all these years. In one, he held my eldest brother Brian in his lap, who in turn held me in his. He looked understandably tired. Wow, I thought as I flipped through the pages, How did he do it? For all his late nights in the shop and early mornings in the truck, owning and managing the operations of his business, I never really remember him complaining about his work load or his tiredness.
What I do remember, however, was riding my bike around the shop while he greased one of his single-axle milk trucks. I was a little guy at the time. He rolled out on his creeper from under the truck. “I don’t hear those training wheels hitting the ground too often; I think we could take them off today.” He grabbed a wrench, took the training wheels off easily, and got back under the truck to continue his work. After a few moments of uncertainty, I hopped back on and continued my ride. I never crashed, and never needed training wheels again. I guess I just trusted his judgement back then.
I guess I still do. We had a moment alone by the grill on Saturday, where I told him how overwhelmed I’ve been feeling, and how tough it’s been to prioritize my time between family, farm and full-time job.
He listened silently and responded with his characteristic reasonability. “Well, everybody’s in the same boat, I guess… Yeah, I remember how it was. The business needed to be taken care of, obviously, so I did what I needed to do there, and after that was family time. And your mom and I were each off every other day, so that helped some too.”
Somehow, the simplicity of his response disappointed me. Running a milk trucking business, with four boys in the house under the age of seven, it seemed an insurmountable amount of obligation. But he had done it. I know he had, because I was there, and so was he.
And maybe that’s all there is to it. He was there. Maybe that’s where I need to be. For all my toiling about where I’m not and what is not getting done, maybe I just need to take the training wheels off, stop thinking so much, and be there.