My Father The Millionaire by Travis Turner
Looking back, it was hard to believe at first. At only 22 I thought I knew more than my professors, but was about to learn one of the greatest lessons of my life. My father had achieved millionaire status. Unbelievable. Sr. A millionaire.
The day began like any other. I had just made it home from my commute to the local university. I wasn’t allowed to stay on campus because of “the work I had to do around the farm”, although I really knew it was because my father wanted to keep an eye on me. Rites of passage were hard to come by in such a small town. It was around 6:30 and darkness slowly blanketed the old ranch-style home where me and my old man lived off of Highway 17 in isolated West Alabama.
“Well, there he is,” my old man said as I carefully shut the door and dropped my books on the couch.
“Hey Dad. What’s goin on?”
He was sitting at the kitchen table with papers spread abound. He sipped a High Life while eating sardines and saltines. My dinner would be the same.
“Just tryin to figure out some of this tax stuff. Short and easy my ass.” he mumbled.
“I may’ve found a place to stay while I do my graduate work. Gonna be teaching an online course and working as a GA in the English department, so driving back and forth might get to be too much. Don’t know if I’ll be able to split my time here anymore”
He looked at me and then looked back down at his paperwork, never saying a word. After another sip from his beer, he raised his head with a look I had seen a thousand times before.
“Richard, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I need you here. To take care of things while I’m workin.”
The old take care of everything bit rears its head. I had taken on that responsibility shortly after my mother passed away. I was only 11, and for the most part my childhood had ended. No sleeping late on Saturday mornings. No hanging out with my friends after school at the park sneaking cigarettes and looking at nudie mags. No attempting to get to third base with my date after the Homecoming dance. I was sick of the constant sacrifice.
“You know Dad, we’ve talked about this before and everything will be just fine. You can handle everything around here. You don’t need me.”
“Don’t see how you can tell me what I need or don’t need. They teach you that up at school?”
My father had never attended college, but insisted that I did. Hell, he didn’t even finish high school, but got lucky and got a job at the local lumber mill when he was 17 and had been working there ever since. He was now 56.
“All I’m saying is maybe its time for me to get out of here.”
“Boy, you don’t get it do ya? I need you here, son. One day all of this is going to be yours and…”
“Yeah, yeah. I get it. All of this. This decrepit house, an acre and a half of land. And how can I forget an old beat up 4×4 that needs a new engine? How could I forget! Dad If I’m ever gonna do anything I’ve gotta get out of here and start making some connections.”
“Forget it. Move on up there with your buddies if ya want. I’m not gonna beg ya to stay.”
Victory. At last my old man got up from the table, grabbed the rest of his six-pack from the fridge with his truck keys and walked out.
“Just don’t forget where ya came from, boy,” he said slamming the door on his way out. The paper-thin frame of the house shook at his might.
How could I forget. I had grown to loathe it. All of it. I walked over to the fridge and looked for a beer. Should’ve known better. I poured a glass of milk instead and sat there at the table like my father was before. That’s when I noticed something. One of the papers had been a statement from the sawmill and had my father’s total earnings dating all the way back to 1967. The man had made over a million dollars over the course of his life. A million fucking dollars wrung out from the sweat of my old man. To the left of the paper was something else just as startling, if not more. My old man’s bank statement. The available balance was $88,744.63.
He’d been saving every penny he could. Why? Why did we live in such a shithole, drive these old cars, and eat deer meat and whatever would grow out back for dinner? And suddenly it all made sense. Why he had pushed me so hard. Why he wanted me to do the things he’d never had the opportunity. I was his life. He had worked night and day, 12-16 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week, coming home soaked in sweat, body aching, the perfect example of working class America and I had been so resentful for what many would have killed for: a chance at a better life.
I rinsed my glass out in the sink and went to bed. Around 1:30 that morning I heard the rumble of that old 4×4 and my father stumbling into our home. I had made my mind up. I would continue to take care of things in my own way and drive back as often as possible, but I would have to move away from it all. Sacrifices were made, but not in vain. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was, the only person he really had in his life giving him shit and wanting to leave, but it was late and he had to work the next morning.