Her father was strict but he wasn’t a hard or cold person. He was just strict. His brother was a farmer in The Badlands but he was a Lutheran minister out in Montana. His wife was a private duty nurse who went into public health care and since she was gone during the day the majority of the childcare fell to him. Children need to be fed. Children need to be clothed. The dishes and the laundry need to be done. School supplies have to be purchased. Oil in the family cars has to be changed and what one parent can’t or won’t do the other parent must or it won’t get done.
Her father knew this so he set about doing. He scrambled eggs and scrubbed the floors. All seven of his children were old enough to clear their dishes from the dining room table but he was the one who washed them. When the laundry was clean he helped his wife hang it out on the line. He ate the ends of the bread that no one else wanted and when it was hotter than hell but twice as humid he was outside picking the raspberries that had ripened all at once instead of in conveniently picked smaller batches. Her father worked hard as the years went by. He didn’t complain and when his children complained about the work they had to do he didn’t tolerate their insubordination.
Dust and dirt were facts of life and bitching about it didn't change the amount of work that needed to be done. Now you may remember that her father was a pastor and as such he didn’t use vulgar words or profane expressions. His daughter knew that she better not use them either but resentment raged through her as she scrubbed the kitchen floor. Her words were muttered because she knew what would happen if her father heard her and it was unfortunate timing on her part that she threw the rag exclaiming that “Housework is a bitch” at the very moment her father's shoes crossed her line of vision.
The sodden rag fell to the floor. Her father bent down to pick it up but to her surprise he didn’t say much about what he had overheard. He merely remarked that housework was a bitch but you had to do it anyways. She went back to scrubbing, her father went back to his study and tears are a less effective cleansing agent than elbow grease but she put plenty of both into scrubbing the kitchen floor because somehow her father’s casual comment was worse than being yelled at. The raspberries that hadn't been frozen had been turned into jam by the time her birthday came. Her family celebrated with a cake and their family didn’t have much money so her presents were mainly things she would need for school.
There were some incidentals from her brothers and sisters but perhaps the most surprising gift was the one from her father. It was a plain glass mug. There was red writing on it and there was a smile on his face as he watched his daughter opening her gift. Tears streamed down her face when she read the writing and my family may be different than your family but one of our most precious heirlooms is a plain glass mug with red writing on the front and back. Perhaps the factory worker who packed the Housework is a bitch mugs thought that his or her job was a bitch but if that worker saw that mug today he or she would see the words my grandfather added. Dear Jeanie, Housework is a bitch. Love Dad.