Milestone #85

By TIM BEELAND,

When a person is in their 80s, wouldn’t you say it is safe to assume that every birthday is a milestone? My dad, Harmon Drexil “Joe” Beeland, hits his 85th milestone this coming Sunday. 

Me and Joe go way back. Obviously we do, since he’s my dad and I’m no spring chicken. Me and him have been celebrating birthdays together for 57 years now. His is on the 21st and mine the 25th of this month. That’s a lot of birthdays.

We go way back in other ways too. We’re a lot alike. Practical jokers. Fire cracker poppers — big firecracker poppers, the louder the better. Eggnog drinkers. Simple food, like fried fish, connoisseurs. Fish-catching-tale-tellers.  Horders. Riggers, as in rigging things up. Dealers, as in thinking we got the best deal on something. And other things of the nature of things like these.

We also worked together at the A&P in Newton for years while I was a teenager and in college. He was the boss, always has been, always will be, of course, and I an employee like everyone else. You get real close to the boss when he’s your dad, and you like him a lot too, and you work together every day.

Back then the grocery store was a great place to be employed. Probably still is at some. It was fun working there, even if days included sticking a hand though a rotten head of lettuce every now and then or reaching into a sack and pulling that same hand back with a really rank potato stuck on a thumb.  Rotten produce can be hard on a fellow, I’m here as a witness, believe you me.

Grocery store work as a whole can be hard work too. Like when it’s the day of the week to unload an 18-wheeler  by hand after it was packed to the brim with box after box of canned goods on pallets by  someone somewhere driving a fork lift.

Or shivering into a sweat in a refrigerated truck while unloading case after case of those potatoes, and that lettuce, and cabbage, and rutabagas, and other really heavy but tasty things that customers expect on the produce aisle.

Or just sweating for the sake of sweating while tossing watermelons out of the back of a pickup truck in a sweltering parking lot in the middle of July. Whew!

My dad is suffering the affects of a lifetime of that kind of work today. His back and legs and arms cause problems and we visit doctors and specialists and surgeons who can help with things of that nature. Some do, some don’t. He lives with it.

Like all fathers and sons, Joe and I are “not” alike on a number of things too. He thinks you’ve got to change the oil in your vehicle on a “regular, every so many miles” schedule. I’m more  of I’ll do it when I get around to it kind of guy. My ride has 330,000 miles on it, his does not. Enough said on that matter!

Dad also thinks that lawn mower blades must be sharpened on a “regular, so many uses” schedule. I beg to differ and usually get around to that after the mower starts laying the grass down rather than chopping it off.

He also thinks mower blades are made to be sharpened, I feel that the fact that there are new blades on the store shelves is clear evidence that my old blades need not be sharpened. And, I certainly do not want to eliminate a job for some hardworking person somewhere who makes those new blades for a living.

Joe eats coconut cake and pie and really likes licorice candy. I choke on coconut and gag just thinking about licorice. We will, however, both partake in a snort of good whiskey.

There’s plenty more to tell, but time is short — I hear snow is on the way — and so is this space and it’s time to give old Joe a break. The time has come to celebrate. To celebrate another milestone. An 85th milestone.

After a couple of days of deep freeze, I think a mild weekend is in store, so perhaps a fish fry is in order. Like I said, we’re both connoisseurs in that arena. I’m also going to make him a big ole coconut cake to celebrate with — choke, choke, gag — and we might even share a snort of whiskey or two.

So, happy birthday, Pop, and if you got your paper on time, and are reading this before Saturday, don’t fret, it wasn’t going to be no surprise party anyway!