Meet Fred Vantour. Overnight shift custodian at Boston College. 62. Married. 5 kids. Fred has been working since he was 14 years old, cuz that’s what kids do. Or did.
In 1994 he started working as a cook at Boston College and eventually moved to the night shift to clean Robsham theater which gave him better pay and the ability to heal up his bad back and carpal tunnel that had developed while he was in the kitchen.
Oh. His overnight job also put his five kids through college. Five. Through college. While the kids had to do the work with their grades and sports in high school in order to be accepted into the school, the employee discount accounts for nearly $55,000 of the $61,000 price tag for BC. And this spring, his youngest daughter is graduating.
Yo Dad, you da man.
However, this story isn’t about the dad; at least, not completely. It’s about the kids. Alicia, Amy, Michael, John, and Tom. Who watched their pop year after year go to work as they got ready for bed and STILL was plugged into sports, school, and whatever else needed attention (including I assume, his marriage since they are still married.) And they didn’t let it go to waste.
I like a story from this article about how one son, Michael, went to see his dad with some friends after a party on campus. He wasn’t afraid to show his pals that his dad pushed a cleaning cart at night and even said, ‘this is why I can afford to go to this school.’ One of his friends got so verklempt that he hugged the elder Vantour. Pretty cute. (Papa Ventour also says that the kids would come see him at night with loads of dirty laundry to take home. Kids gotta be kids.)
I did not grow up with money. I remember clear as day, while in junior high school, when my dad received a raise that brought his yearly pastoral salary past $30,000 and it was a BIG deal! Which meant if I wanted “stuff” I bought it myself. At 10 years old I was babysitting and by the time I was 12 I was busy enough to have to turn my own mom down to watch my 6 year old sister. These days if you left a 12 year old home alone with your kids you’d be carted into CPS only AFTER being crucified on the Facebook. True story.
My parents worked hard. Long hours and if I wanted to be a complete brat I could complain that the people of the church always took priority for my dad over us. But I’m 49 and not a brat. I’m just really proud to have two incredibly hard working parents (workaholics actually, something that I did NOT inherit from them. I like my downtime. Netflix days are the bomb and I’m unapologetic about it.) They instilled in their kids that we need to work. And we did.
And then WE had kids. I remember one spring day as I was doing something around the house the phone rang. My then 14 year old son was on the other line and asked if I’d come down to the McDonald’s with his Social Security card and sign a piece of paper saying I agree to let him hold a job. My response? ‘Uhhhhh dude, I thought you were out riding your bike?’ Yup. He biked the two miles (CLEAR across town) to the Mickey D’s and got his first job. Of course I signed the paper. He was slated to turn 15 soon and was making his own money. (We won’t go into details on how HORRIBLE he was and is with his money, I need to bask in the past a bit.) All my kids work. Zandra will work herself to sick if allowed and even though she is going through a rough patch right now I’m hoping she’s willing to get on track when opportunity arises.
My nieces and nephews also work as they are able given their ages and I’m proud of all of them. There is nothing I abhor more than an ungrateful kid (or adult for that matter.) To lay on the couch while people around you are doing work didn’t happen in my house (or if it did, just WAIT until Dad got home and got wind of it.) We had chores. Our kids have chores (don’t care how old they are, if they’re at Mom’s house they’ll have chores.) If you think there’s nothing to do around the house other than what mom is doing is a lazy way of saying I don’t want to help make my environment better. It’s bullshit and I could never respect someone for going through life like that. Even worse is the parents who don’t want their kids working or even doing chores because THEY had to work hard and don’t want that for their children. What utter and complete failures.
But not the five kids of Fred Vantour.
It’s what I like best about the story of the overnight janitor. His children recognized the work; did what THEY needed to do, and are grateful. I guess you can’t ask for much more than that as a parent.
It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, “what about lunch?”