Suburban Snapshots

My Husband, the Garbage Man

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Partly because he lets me give him so much shit for the sake of amusing you people, and mostly because I sincerely mean it, I often tell Steve how proud I am of him for being willing to work so hard for this family. Though we both hold college degrees (equally as valuable in the job market -- his in Art History and mine in Literature, CHA-CHING!) Steve isn't a desk guy, so the jobs he holds are always trades involving lots of moving around and manual labor. The pay's decent, but considering what I make to maintain a website and cultivate a sizable dent in my office chair, and what he earns lifting twice his weight or hanging off the back of a garbage truck, it hardly seems fair.

Steve will get up at whatever hour he needs to be at work and come home whenever they say he's finished, and lift, drive, move, or tolerate anything in those in-between hours that makes him feel useful and puts money in the bank. He's an official employee of our city now, picking up decaying yard waste in the rain, taking unmentionable money shots to the face from the trash compactor and keeping downtown looking quaint, and he rarely complains (making me feel like kind of a dick for being all, "Oh man honey, I had SO many meetings today and...what's that in your beard?")

Sometimes before school, Anna and I use my stalking GPS app to go Daddy hunting. She's giddy when she spots one of the big, yellow trucks and sees Steve darting back and forth across the street emptying pails or riding the platform. We'll watch him for a few minutes -- today it was in miserable, drizzling rain -- before he says a quick hello and we're off to school.

He'll often see neighborhood kids and I hear from friends how they think it's the coolest thing that "Anna's dad gets to be the garbage man." Anna thinks it's cool too, but I wonder if the day will come when she's embarrassed by her dad's work. When she's thirteen, will she wish he wore a suit instead of a reflective city uniform? I imagine it's inevitable, as probably when she's thirteen everything we do will constitute part of our plot to ruin her entire life, OMG! I guess when it happens it's just another one of those phases you roll with until it passes.

This is where those of you with teenagers tell me how it's not actually as heartbreaking as it seems having your kid be mortified by your very existence, though I remember my sister once telling our mother that she was embarrassed by an outfit Mom planned to wear to teacher conferences and I think my mom cried for like a week. Maybe what I really need is a list of retorts along the lines of, "You can thank your dad's 'totally embarrassing job' for that new iPad50 you just got for class, missy!" Got any?

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