I would be remiss if I didn’t write about Big Norm today.
My father’s been gone for 6 ½ years. He left behind 3 sons and, in my opinion, left too early from this planet.
If there is any incredible trait that my old man had, it was as a provider.
When you are kids, you never realize the sacrifice your parents make to give you the best childhood you could get. Both my mom and dad made a lot of sacrifices to give us Harder boys whatever we wanted. Vacations, sporting events, wrestling shows, and action figure collections were, for the most part, on my Dad’s dime.
My Dad, once we moved to South River in 1991, would make the trek from the old East Brunswick Transportation Center to Manhattan every day for over a decade. Eventually, the constant grind of travel takes its toll. There were a lot of times he came home unhappy, disgruntled, and pissed off, but at the end of the day, we had a roof over our head, and whatever we wanted. He provided for his family.
In 2003, he started working in Morristown. Again, for almost a decade, the constant grind of travel takes its toll. His nightmare stories of traffic on Route 287 were among stuff of legend. (Trust me, I travel 5 miles on 287 on my morning route every morning and I feel his pain, especially now.) Again, there were days he came home in a mood, but he sacrificed that for the family to have the better things in life. He provided for his family.
The ultimate tale of his grind really happened in the final 18 months of his life. In April 2012, Big Norm had to have a massive surgery. Several organs had to be removed from his body and in turn, my old man would permanently be saddled with two colostomy bags. After a long surgery, he made it through.
For some, this would be a permanent disability case and an early retirement. That wasn’t Big Norm. My father went to a rehab and started the long journey back. There were a lot of frustrations and seemingly never-ending issues, but he went back to work...and it did it two months ahead of schedule. Up until the final weeks of his life, he was still going to the office. He provided for his family.
I don’t think the majority of the human race truly understand what our folks do for their kids and what it takes for them to have a happy childhood. The more I step back and dive deep into my life, I gain a true appreciation for what my parents have done for all three. I hope my brother does the same for his daughter as what our dad did for us. I hope my other brother and I one day do the same for our future children as what Dad did for us.
My Dad provided for his family. And I’m forever grateful.
Happy Father’s Day, Big Norm. You are forever missed.