He was an old man, then, ailing. Although we did not know it at the time, this would be his last visit to the lake. Professionally, it had been a trying, depressing time for me. I had been submitting manuscripts to editors for years, and other than one short story for Ladybug Magazine, no one seemed interested in what I was writing. But on that sunny afternoon, we were happy, quiet company, glad to sit and breathe and spend time with each other.
“Alice,” he said, “did I ever tell you what it was like when I first started working in Montreal?”
Papa was poor: he had arrived as an immigrant with almost nothing. There were days when he survived on a single meal. He took up a job selling tools to hardware stores. He was given samples by the company, and he went around Montreal, from store to store, hoping to make a sale. Every day he’d make sure to visit as many stores as he could fit in, show his wares, and move on the next one.
“I didn’t sell anything. But as long as I was going from store to store, I was doing my job.”
One day, he arrived at a store he had visited a few times before, and spoke to the owner.
“You know,” the owner said, “I won’t buy what you’re selling. I get my tools from another manufacturer, and I like what they make. But you’re a nice man. So let me tell you about the store a few blocks that way. They’ll be interested in what you have to show.”
My father thanked him and went to the store the owner had told him about. He made his first sale that day.
“After that, I didn’t make lots of sales right away. But I made more. And I stuck with it because that was my job. I think I did okay in the end.”
We each have our heroes. Papa was one of mine.