Starting Over

October 14th, 2018

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
― Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

I was on the phone with Hussein. His father is trying to find a better job, and I suggested that he try to get into the Iron Workers apprenticeship program. Our son, Stefan, is part of that program, and he is well on his way to becoming a welder in the union. Stefan has met Hussein’s family, and he actually was thinking about getting Hussein to try out for the program, but Hussein is only seventeen years old, and he doesn’t qualify yet. Because the economy is hot, the Iron Workers Union is looking for people. So, I told Hussein to get his dad involved in the process.

Turki, Hussein’s father, is forty years old. He doesn’t have many years, but he has a lot of mileage. He’s had a difficult life. Turki, and his family, fled from Syria, and went to Turkey for a while. Somehow, Turki manged to get his wife and eleven kids to this country. I am impressed by that. His actions show a great deal of initiative and courage. He has a strength. It is a strength based on desperation, but it is strength nonetheless. He currently works as a janitor in a school. He busts his ass to take care of his family, and he struggles. I think that Turki has always struggled.

Turki speaks English passably, but Hussein had to fill out the apprenticeship application for him online. It is a classic immigrant situation. The children have to help the parents to adjust to the new world. Turki’s kids are his bridge from Syria to America.

I am not sure that Turki will be accepted by the Iron Workers. His education level is sketchy. Hussein had told me that they had not received a response from the union after two weeks. I told Hussein that I would ask Stefan for some advice. Later, I called Hussein to tell him what Stefan told me, and to ask him some questions.

I told Hussein, “My son says that you should call the local union and ask for Rich. He’s the guy who runs the apprenticeship program. He can tell you and your dad what to do.”

Hussein said, “Okay. We do that on Monday.”

“Hussein, I want to find your father some other options for work. What does he know how to do?”

“My father, he works very hard. He can do hard work.”

I sighed. The Iron Workers are involved in laying down a lot of steel rebar. The work is physically demanding. Stefan comes home utterly exhausted from his job, and he’s only twenty-four. Construction work is a young man’s game.

“Yes, I know that. But what skills does he have?”

“What do you mean?”

I replied, “What has your dad done for work?”

Hussein answered me, “In Syria, we were all farmers. He worked on the farm.”


My mind raced. “Can he drive a forklift?”

“No, but he can learn!”

I am sure that Turki can learn. The man is no dummy. The question is whether an employer will take the time to train Turki. Turki is extremely motivated, but his skill set is very limited.

I told Hussein, “I am going to look around to find other jobs for your dad. I don’t know what there is. I really don’t. I’ll look. I will let you know.”

Hussein replied, “Thank you, Frank. Thank you.”

We hung up.








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