>Dad’s Bucket

My Dad doesn’t carry a briefcase or an attaché, he carries a “multi-purpose cooler” to work each day. When I was growing up, I would sometimes sneak a peek into Dad’s bucket.

I knew that I could always find a piece of gum in the top tray of Dad’s bucket. Sometimes it would be orange or grape-flavored, occasionally cinnamon. In my sugar-deprived childhood, even Dad’s sugar free gum tasted like honey when sneaked from his bucket.

Beneath worn little notebooks and ledger sheets, a couple of pieces of gum could be found swimming with an abundance of toothpicks and an ink pen or two. I’d sometimes wonder where the bucket lived during the day. Was it stashed in a communal lunch bucket storage area to spend the day with its lunch bucket friends? Did Dad take his bucket with him to the highest iron ledge in the morning for safekeeping until he and his lunch buddies took a break?

Scratched and bruised, the bucket was a mainstay on the kitchen counter evenings during the workweek. Bumperstickers proclaiming safety goals met and unwavering Union loyalty changed with the job site and national political landscape. While a bumpersticker would never make it to a bumper in my family, I recall what seemed like dozens of blue Dukakis stickers adorning the side of Dad’s bucket. Though new, smaller buckets have since made their way to the counter; my favorite was always the standard blue or red Igloo with the white fold-back lid.

Twice this week, Dad’s bucket has come into conversation. The first when talking to a friend about Southern Indiana nomenclature before heading home for Thanksgiving dinner (lunch). I asked her if she’d ever heard of a lunch bucket. She hadn’t. The second came just yesterday when listening to my youngest sister’s tale of being approached by a very strange stranger.

Upon hearing the news, Dad had packed his bucket and was ready to drive the two hours to meet her. When she mentioned Dad’s bucket in the retelling, I could imagine the tone in Dad’s voice as he readied himself for the trip. Thankfully, I’ve only heard him use that tone on one occasion. I was strangely comforted as he unintentionally validated my fear and offered to meet me that evening on the phone so many miles (and now years) away. I didn’t take him up on his offer that evening, but I’m glad to know that if need be we can count on him to pack his bucket and be ready.

P.S. – I love you Dad. Have a great week at work!

*No, before you ask there isn’t an impending situation, Dad isn’t hurt or ill, I haven’t been drinking and I’m not PMSing. Just counting my blessings, if you will. 🙂

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