Why I Love and Cherish My Blue-Collar Husband

Why I Love and Cherish My Blue-Collar Husband

His drive, dedication and focus outshine his work clothes every day.

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He comes home from work and I smell the scent of old copper pipes before he even walks into the door. His hands are calloused and rough from entire mornings and afternoons working under houses and his face is often smeared with black grease. I have to do laundry almost every day to keep up with the dirt he tracks in on his blue uniform. He is tired as soon as dinner is over and wakes up before anyone else in the house is even stirring. He is a plumber by trade, and a husband and daddy by choice and I am forever grateful for him.

If you were to ask my husband when he was 16, during the year that we first met in the halls of our local high school, what he wanted to be when he grew up, chances are he would have given you his trademark side grin and said he wanted to be an actor. In fact, he toured the campus of UNC Wilmington that year and seriously considered enrolling in their theater production and fine arts program. Yet, during the tour, he asked a current professor and professional actor one poignant question that changed the course of his life forever. "What is your family life like?" he had inquired. The man paused for a moment and replied "Especially at first, this job can be hard on a family. Acting is rarely stable. In fact, most days it's feast or famine. You either have a great gig that pays the bills for a few months or you're left waiting tables waiting on the next offer to come in. It makes it hard to provide for a family and be there for them when you're needed the most."

Upon hearing that, my husband almost immediately gave up any dreams of Hollywood and instead, went to North Carolina State University to major in business. At the time, he wasn't sure what kind of business he wanted to pursue, but a few years down the road, the answer fell into his lap. His 85-year-old grandfather was thinking of giving up the family plumbing business and wanted to know if he was interested in taking it over. A B.S. in Business Management under his belt, he agreed this would be a natural next step. He studied for, took and passed his state licensing exam. We moved back to our sleepy little hometown, I took a job as a technical writer and he became a professional plumber.

For five years, he went to his grandparents' house every morning, suited up in his blues, and helped his grandfather get into the old work truck. Together, they would help customers, fix leaky pipes, repair commodes, install water heaters and just about anything else that anyone needed to be done. We went shopping for steel-toe work boots, learned how to repair them on a dime and make them last as long as possible, and invested in long johns for the cold season when winterizing a home was enough to chill you to the bone. We became a working man's family, used to long hours, emergency repair calls in the middle of the night, and a hamper that always smelled of metal fittings.

The job gave his grandfather something to look forward to. It gave my husband a chance to spend time with his grandparents. His grandmother would fix them breakfast and lunch and they made some of their most sacred and cherished memories around that small, modest white kitchen table during our newlywed years. With a minor in graphic design, he helped modernize the company just a little, giving it a new logo, creating a magnetic sign for the truck, printing business cards and even creating a website advertising their services. Yet, at the core, the business still had the same heart. They were still the two local plumbers that would help an elderly woman fix a running sink at midnight or install a fleet of new commodes in a shiny new office building with equal gumption and drive.

Now, his grandmother is in a nursing home and his grandfather has moved into an assisted living facility, spending most of his day driving to see her and spend time with her in the shared, communal living room. They are preparing to sell their little house in the middle of town, the one where they shared so many meals during those formative years. It's the same place I would bring my babies in the afternoon to help make apple pie, watch television or raid their incredible ice cream stash. My husband manages the company on his own, though he plans to expand in the future. Turns out, it's just not as fun riding around in the work truck without your trusted companion and mentor by your side.

We have two children now, and every afternoon we wait by the old screen door to see papa pull into the driveway. Even though I'm sure his day full of manual labor was exhausting, overwhelming and stressful, he still finds the energy to stoop down to their level, swoop them both up into his arms and twirl them around on the driveway as the sun sets. He's our hero and we are blessed to call him ours.

Today and every day, I am grateful to be yoked to someone who knows the value of hard work, is dedicated to his craft and gives so much of himself on a daily basis to provide a comfortable life for himself and those he loves. No, it's not as glamorous as a cushy office job. Yes, there are days when I wish he was home at 5:00 on the dot, wearing a suit I didn't have to deep clean every evening. Still, I wouldn't trade this setup for the world. He works hard and loves deeply and that is a combination that is not easy to come by in today's society. We are forever thankful to be on the receiving end of such devotion and will work just as hard to make sure he feels equally cherished.

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What Is Wrong With Humanity That We Only Unite When Horrific Tragedies Occur?

It's time we change the way we think about unity

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As I watched the news for what seemed like a solid month of hurricane coverage, I questioned why was it that destruction is the only thing that brings people together? We have our social disagreements and political battles, but when it comes to a disaster, we care for one another. Slowly as the tides receded, so did our compassion and we were back at it again with our political debates and our hateful words until another tragedy, like Las Vegas, happened to bring us back together again. Why does it always take a tragedy for us to find unity?

With the recent natural disasters and the terrorist attack on Las Vegas, we find ourselves looking for the good. Looking for these heroic moments where people have stepped in and risked themselves for others. We try to find comfort in knowing that we are good people and that we stepped up to the plate when we were needed, but why is it always in an act of desperation? Why does it take the loss of life for us to see that we can be good? Why does it take an attack on all of us to put our differences aside to be able to help others? Why do we have to find ourselves in tragic moments to find the beauty in the world?

Call it an act of God or just call it a coincidence, but doesn't it seem as though history is continuing to repeat itself because we haven't learned anything from it? After every natural disaster or terrorist tragedy in history, we have changed our behavior and our course of action for a short time after, but we always fall back into our old ways. We always go back to our battles and hateful ways, forgetting about the compassion we once had and the love that we had just felt for one another.

It isn't until another random act of hate happens again that we are able to see what we had done wrong, but we still aren't fully able to change our ways.

The recent news hasn't shown anything about the NFL protests or riots against the police. It hasn't had any talk of the war against taxes or new health care bills. It hasn't even shown us any updates on the Kardashian pregnancies because we have refocused on what truly matters in this world: us coming together to show support for our people. As a country, as an act of love, as an act of humanity. We need to refocus on what really matters in this world before we go back to our old ways and let history repeat itself again.

Lesson to be learned: we need to stop requiring a tragedy to bring us together. Life is too short and too precious to continue to keep repeating the same mistakes that we have made in the past. We need to live in the moment, love the ones that you are with and thank God every single day for the extra breaths that you have been given to take. We need to show more compassion on a daily basis and realize that life is a gift, so show your appreciation for it and the others around you.

Regardless, please pray for those suffering from recent attacks to the hurricane victims who are still suffering. Those are the ones that deserve all of our prayers right now. If their loss doesn't make you learn to appreciate life, I don't know what will. We need to first learn how to spread positivity and love before these tragedies even occur in order to actually be one big, happy human family. Sure, there is always going to be negativeness around us, but you need to learn how to look over that and start to look at the positive things.

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What I’ve Learned about Trust and Confidentiality as a Friend

It took me 15 years to understand that listening is a higher virtue than speaking.

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I count myself lucky that I can count on one hand the number of truly close friends I can call upon in times of trouble. One of those is my mom, another is my sister and three are high school and college buddies that I am still close with to this day. While some people would balk at the idea of not having a slew of people to be close with, I am grateful that my circle is so small. It means it's tighter and closer-knit. There is a spirit of trust and security between us that I would not have if it were widened.

Yet, it didn't always use to be this way. When I was in high school, I was voted "Most Friendly" because I was in so many different circles. I was close to the athletes because I cheered at every game and rode the bus with them every Friday evening that we had an away game. I was friends with the literature lovers because we had a monthly book club that met in the library after school. I was even close with the marching band members because all through my middle school tenure, I'd played flute with many of them and formed close connections. While it was great to walk down the halls and know almost every face I saw, that kind of social connectedness can ironically be incredibly isolating.

In a small town, it can be downright stifling. I found myself in the middle of so many circles of drama, gossip and overshare. I tried my best to be, as many would say "Switzerland" and remain neutral in every discussion, but it wasn't long before my own wires became crossed. Any negative word I spoke about someone, every secret I accidentally shared and every boundary I overstepped was quickly found out by someone on the other side. In my effort to be an ally to all, I'd put myself on the outside of my own circle and spent many high school nights alone in my room wondering how to put the pieces back together.

Thankfully, I was able to forge genuine friendships with the few people that I can still count on to this day. However, through that entire experience, I learned a few lessons about myself. Here is what I took away from my time as a social butterfly.

1. Trust is an ironclad commitment.

You can't undo a broken chain of trust. You can't go back in time and make it better, put the words back into your mouth and get back that closeness that you lost the minute you opened it. In high school, I loved being "in the know." We lived in a community of under 1,000 and everyone knew everyone. There wasn't much to do or see so we thrived every time there was something remotely exciting or dramatic going on. That led to chatter and gossip and the kind of destructive speech that tears apart relationships.

I was entrusted with insider knowledge that many of my close friends felt comfortable sharing with me. Yet, being privy to it made me feel powerful and popular and I'd misuse the information time and again. Hindsight is 20/20 but if I could go back and tell my high-school self anything, it would be this: If something is told to you in confidence, hold it in your heart as you would a secret, golden treasure. With the exception of information that absolutely needs to be shared to ensure someone's safety, let your listening ear be a safe haven and when you gain someone's trust, fight with all of your might to keep it.

2. It's better to protect than destroy.

Why does anyone find joy in picking apart others? Why do we derive satisfaction from learning something about someone else that should have remained private and confidential? There are certain things that are inherently personal and should be kept that way. It's the reason why we install encryption software on our computers, password-protect our cell phones and lock our doors every time we leave the house. We want to safeguard that which we find important to keep to ourselves.

In high school, I didn't think twice about destroying that intimate barrier of protection that my friends had built up around them. Like a child throwing snowballs at a makeshift ice fort, I took those walls down when I should have been helping to build them up. Adolescence is a tricky time for everyone and we're still learning who we are, what we want and where we should go. We shouldn't make it more difficult or confusing by diminishing someone's every effort to guard their heart and maintain some shred of secrecy throughout the growing-up years. Being a fierce protector of this process, on the other hand, is a much more worthy pursuit.

3. You find out who your friends are.

Despite my setbacks as a friend in high school, I had a circle of people who saw past my faults, my failures and my disappointing actions and stuck it out with me through the murk. I am forever grateful that they did because eventually I did grow up, realize the error of my ways, and tried to be the kind of friend I should have always been to them. To my surprise, they were ready and waiting to pick up that relationship.

Now, we have an ongoing text thread. Instead of talking about each other, stabbing others in the back and engaging in futile small-town gossip, we're swapping stories about infants crying through the night, toddlers starting preschool, and where to get the best maternity clothes. The grace that these women extend to me daily is beyond comprehension and I'm thankful I was given a second chance with each of them. Life brought us full circle and being able to share my daily ups and downs with people who knew me back then has been incredible.

So here's to showing up. Here's to being the kind of friend that a friend wants to have. Here's to listening intently, sharing in the struggles of others, and being a beacon of trust and truth. Perhaps most importantly, here's to understanding how to protect our most valuable and precious gift in life -- each other.

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