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Happy Birthday To My Man of Steel

November 19th, 2010 · 8 Brilliant Opinions · Random Things That Make Me Smile

I met Big P on January 24, 1998.  I had been planning on spending the evening at home with my date (a container of Häagen-Dazs ice cream).   Instead, I went to a dance for an organization I did volunteer medical work with in the Caribbean.  Big P sat next to me.  We struck up a conversation about football.  He thought the Patriots would win the Super Bowl.  There were sparks … at least on my end. I think he thought I was a nice girl.  I knew he was the one. My life changed that night – for the better.  The education I have, I owe to my parents. But the life I have now, the kids, the crazy old house, the joy and struggle of trying to balance work, life  and love – I owe to Big P.

Big P - Ironworking

Big P has been a union Ironworker for over 30 years.  I like to tease him and tell him I was jumping double dutch when he started his career.  I didn’t know much about Ironworkers until I met Big P.  Most folks hear “Ironworker” and think of the guys who make the metal gates and window guards popular for city dwellings.  Big P worked in iron and steel erections.  His job involved building the bridges,stadiums, and skyscrapers that dot the urban landscape.  Traveling with Big P can be stressful.  He can spot  a structural problem on a bridge or in a tunnel, the way a mother can hear her baby cry and know she’s  hungry, wet or  scared.  Big P did a  four year apprenticeship…but he is extremely mechanically inclined and it seems instinctive. Ironworkers are modern day cowboys.  Big P likes to tell folks that he’s been farther up in the sky than they have been miles away from home.    No doubt.

Lunch On A Skyscraper - Ironworkers - Rockefeller Center

Big P,  like most ironworkers is not afraid of heights.  His tool belt has heavy metal stakes and hammers.  When we first married I would get up at 5:30 in the morning with him, pack his lunch and tell him to kill lots of vampires.  Joking about the dangers of ironworking helped keep me sane.  This year, Big P’s bad back and shoulder injury (repaired twice) finally caught up with him and he officially retired.   Ironworkers are super macho by nature.  I know for a fact, Big P had a temper at work.  Our friend Mike says the day he was introduced to Big P – he found him holding a guy over the edge of a building.  He said he thought to himself, “That guy is crazy.”

At home  Big P is a gentle giant.   He loves cigars, rum, vinyl albums, tropical flowers and chocolate.  He loves his kids. At breakfast, he is a short order cook. He makes oatmeal for our son, coffee for me and anything our daughter wants. He moans that the kids are taking advantage of him.  It’s hard to believe this 6’6″ guy would let anyone take advantage of him.   He gardens, cooks, listens to music and serves as the primary caregiver for our young children.

At work, I know he has had his share of fights but is always there for the “kid” who is new and afraid to “walk the iron.” (Imagine balancing yourself on an iron beam that is  30 or 40  feet off the ground.)  On 9/11/2001 he calmly explained to me that in the event of a bridge or building collapse, his union would call him to work the site.  On 9/12/2001, he packed up his tools, walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, hitched a ride with the FDNY and worked nights at Ground Zero – removing the rumble and searching for victims.   He worked at the disaster site for two weeks.  It was the only job I ever asked him to quit.

Big P is a mutt.  Born in Carriacou, Grenada. Raised in London,England.  He immigrated to the US in his mid-twenties. Big P hates porta-potties (I haven’t figured out how or where he used the bathroom at work), people who own dogs but won’t scoop the poop,  and  folks who peddle drugs. Although he has lived in NYC for over a decade, he is not “citified.”  He still uses a subway map (just like a tourist), gets scammed by guys “who just left their wallets” around the corner and need to borrow a twenty and  the British in him won’t let you walk by without hearing “good morning.”

Our relationship has been fiery, romantic, angry, contentious, and strong.   In 1998, I fell in love with Big P.  Twelve years later – I choose to love him.   I am sure I will love him right up until I take my last breath.

Tonight, surrounded by family and friends, we will toast Big P on his 55th birthday.   We will feast on the best soul food in Brooklyn complimented by a fantastic selection of wines and spirits,  served by  the sexiest staff in the tri-state area!  Happy Birthday Man of Steel – I love you.




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