“I’m going back to work.”
Jack spent twenty-five years working on the rigs. Then he tried to retire.
When he started, he worked seven days and then was home for a week. Then they started working fourteen and fourteen. By then he knew what he had to do.
Someone told him the big money was working overseas. Go international, they said. Twenty-eight days at work and then twenty-eight days at home. It ain’t that bad. And the money’s good, they said.
Jack had a wife and a couple of kids at home. There was never enough money, it seemed.
He went international. That was twenty years ago.
There are some things they don’t tell you. The flights are long and the food is bad. Twenty-eight 12 hour days is hard on a man and gets harder as the years fly by.
Jack and I were talking.
This kind of work hits both you and your family.
Being gone for a week isn’t bad. Your kids don’t grow that much.
Being gone a month is different. You miss what happens in your world a month at a time. Your kids grow up when you’re at work.
His little girl was born. For Jack, six hitches later, she was a year old. Another six hitches later and she was cruising past two and picking up speed.
“You barely get to know her. At first, they forget about you. They don’t know who you are when you get home. They change so much when you work like I do.” Jack was telling me. “First, they’re babies, you work a couple of hitches and then they’re toddlers. A quick year goes by and they’re in kindergarten. You get something in your eye, and your baby is already in junior high.”
I understand what he’s saying.
“We moved the rig and I came home. My little girl was in high school. It happens like that.”
His voice dropped.
“Then one day you’re packing your bags, leaving for work. She’s graduating high school on Friday night. You’re headed half way around the world. She begs you to stay. You want to. You can’t.”
His pride is hurting, you can tell.
“I’m leaving for work this week. She’s twenty-two. My little girl. Here’s a photo I’ve carried since she was two years old. Twenty years in my wallet, she’s gone all over the world with me. I’ve missed so much of her life – more than half of it.”
“She told me she’s going to have a baby. She’s still my little girl, I still carry her photo in my wallet. She says I’m going to be a grandfather.”
His pride is returning.
“I remember when she would climb up and sit in my lap. I remember the first time she said “I love you Daddy.”
“I’d let her get away with anything. All she had to do was say those four little words.” He’s back to being a father.
Jack went back to the rigs for another month last week.
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