Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Sweet Smell of Success

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived." -Helen Keller

Not only is Peanut NOT happy to see me when I come home from a run, she cowers with fear at my mere presence. It used to be, I'd walk through the door and ask loudly, "Who wants sweaty kisses?" And Peanut, as I'd hoped, would respond with horror. It came to a point where all I had to say was,"Sweaties!?" And she would shriek with dread. Now she's been pre-conditioned, Pavlov-style, to wail and frantically stomp her legs on the couch the moment I've turned the doorknob. I never do kiss her. Nor do I have the intention. But I wouldn't be doing my job as a dad if I were not torturing her at every opportunity.

Me hugging Peanut after a 5K race, circa 2009.
She was horrified.
I'm sure it's not just the soggy, uncomfortable, tactile sensation of wet, sweaty skin on smooth, dry skin that Peanut wants to avoid at all costs. It's also the smell. Let's face it, I can work up quite a stink after logging a few miles with the old sneakers. And Peanut's told me so. "Daddy," she says. "You can't kiss me until you shower." Fair enough. But the threat of the sweaty kiss will always loom until the day I die.

Sometimes I catch a whiff of myself and can't believe it's even possible that a man who showers twice daily, manscapes regularly, and grooms and conditions properly could produce such a stench. Not so much a stench, but a musk. An odor. A lingering scent that must be wiped out with fresh water and Dove body wash as soon as I've inhaled some fluids and a banana.

Other times I might be working in the yard when I take a moment to wipe my brow with my forearm and I pause. Because there's that smell again. It's similar... but different. Yet familiar. And then I remember. I flash back to all of those backyards in which me and my dad were servicing swimming pools. I flash back to the dinner table growing up, where the musk from a long, hard day would linger even after he'd washed his hands. I flash back to the swimming pool store he owned, when we'd be unloading a truck or fixing a customer's pump or filter. I'd wonder to myself why he was sweating so much. It would drip off his forehead, down his nose, and onto whatever we were working on.

Whatever chemical reaction took place on my forearm produced the same smell of my dad. It was a combination of sweat, dirt, cigarettes, and coffee. Doesn't sound enjoyable, but I liked it. It was familiar. It was him. It meant safety. It represented hard work. Besides, he cleaned up just fine on holidays and for church on Sundays. That musk, somehow, now lives in me. (Even though I don't smoke.) It surfaces every now and then when I'm chopping firewood or trimming hedges.

It's funny. There was a day when I told my dad I didn't want to do what he did. We were in his truck
Me and Big D, circa 1985.
after a long, hot day at a job site and I told him I'd rather work in the store. That while I was perfectly capable of working in the field, I was better served and would serve him better waiting on customers and helping to run the retail side of the business. "Dad," I admitted. "I just don't like getting my hands dirty. Literally." He understood and he agreed.

I respect my dad so much for working outside in the heat and clay and the muck for twelve hours a day or more all those years. I have even more respect for him for realizing he didn't want that for me. He sent me to college. He supported my dreams. He put me to work in other ways and still taught me the value of a dollar and the honor of an honest day's work. And while my twelve-hour work days involve a shirt, tie, and a smart pair of slacks, there are still those times. Times when I channel my inner Dominic and toil in the dirt and the mud and the sweat. It's not often. Maybe a few times a year. But I'll wipe my brow with my forearm and a sense of satisfaction will wash over me. In that moment I'll inhale and remember him. And I am thankful for all that he taught me, for all that he did for me. I'm thankful that I, too, stink.


  1. Been a while, so glad I stopped by. My husband works in the Post Office selling stamps all day long, which let's face it, is not the dirtiest job in the world. But when he comes home and works in the yard, or helps load a dumpster, or decides to wage a personal war with the tree stump out front that I'm more than happy to pay someone to remove but he insists "he can do it for free" he can work up quite a stench.

    And I too, refuse to let him near me without having showered/shaved/been hosed down by the fire station down the street.

    But I have to admit (only here and never to him) that there is something nice about that stench. It's the proof of a hard day's work. It's tangible accomplishment. Maybe that's what we are missing in today's society. Who knows.

    Fantastic post as always.

    1. Thank you. I think the value of a good day's work IS being lost to many in our society. While I have a handyman to do jobs around the house that I have no business doing. I do enjoy getting my hands dirty every now and then.


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