Our Father flew an American flag in front of his house until the day he died. You really can’t say that about many people. He was definitely a custom classic that they don’t make anymore.
Dad was born a farmer in a small town where everyone knew everybody else by first name. Neighbors treated each other’s children as if they were their own. Mom worked the land with Dad, helping him till, pick cotton, raise wheat along with raising two little boys.
Farming was getting tougher, though, due to the economy. Mom and Dad began to yearn for a better life for their kids. They hesitantly, said goodbye to their land and the people of their small town and moved to the city. The city was a dramatic and painful shift far more than they expected. However, one constant stood the test of time – work hard and you can make it.
My Father worked his hands to the bone – over eighty hours a week, while Mom held down a job and tried to raise us. They emphasized the value of hard work on the family – not by saying a word, but by living the example.
“Never take what you can earn”.
“Never borrow anything without paying it back”.
“Always help others that are less fortunate.”
“Be a man of your word”.
“Address people with the proper tone and the proper salutation – Sir, Miss, or Ma’am.”
In those early years we had beds made of stacked mattresses, but had no frames. We had some toys, but only a few, and Dad would fix them when they broke. We had homemade food, but never enough to over indulge. While we didn’t have much in material things, we made up with Love: we had each other.
Dad drove around a beat up pick-up truck with an eight foot flatbed, perfect for carrying drywall, wood, sheet metal and scrap. After those long days of work, he would let the tailgate down, and enjoy a beer with his comrades – looking over the finished product like a master of his own universe.
The hard work paid off. He became a small business owner, who ultimately, would become a successful “Mom and Pop shop” for the neighborhood. Our family took pride in being a staple in the community. To save money on repairs, Dad became a jack-of-all trades. He could take apart car motors, dive under the sink, or rebuild refrigerators faster than most, and definitely far cheaper. His favorite saying was, “my labor is always free – so I can’t give you a money back guarantee”.
Dad grew up as a man of deep faith, he was at prayer throughout the week and especially on Sundays. Ultimately, when the congregation was badly in need of a new Church – he grabbed his tools, whatever he had left in the bank account, and sacrificed years for his community. Ultimately, he helped build a beautiful house of prayer on the South Side of Milwaukee that would reach into the thousands.
The best of Dad’s traits was that he’d help everyone he came across. This help often came in the form of service, money, and at the right time, just sage advice.
He would tell you the truth but was rough around the edges. There were no political corrections. He called a duck a duck – and in the end, you knew where he stood.
On the day my Father was killed, he saved many lives of his congregation by attempting to disarm a lunatic gunman who had already taken five lives. He failed to disarm him, but he fought hard and succeeded in warding him off. No one else died after that battle.
He sacrificed his own body – riddled with bullets – so that his wife, his friends, and family would be safe in the other room.
My Father exemplified a good man, a strong husband, and a loving father – he was truly an American hero – a custom classic that they don’t make anymore.
However, the small town he was born in was India and the city they moved to, was in America.
My immigrant father carried the American dream on his back, and ultimately died, when his dream was fulfilled. The lunatic who murdered him and festered a nightmare was a “white supremacist” – he believed that people like my father do not belong in this country.
The question is: What do you believe?
Next time, you speak about immigration, please remember the story of my father:
Satwant Singh Kaleka
Love! The world is as beautiful as you work to make it.