Thom Hartmann gone this week, his father died SundayBy Marion Delgado at 11:24 AM
The story of Carl
by Thom Hartmann
Carl loved books and loved history and, after spending two years in the army as part of the American occupation forces in Japan immediately after World War II, was hoping to graduate from college and teach history, perhaps even at the university level if he could hang on to the GI Bill and his day job in a camera store long enough to get his Ph.D. It was 1950, and he'd been married just a few months, when the surprise came that forced him to drop out of college: his wife was pregnant with their first child.
This was an era when husbands worked, wives tended the home, and being a good father and provider was one of the highest callings to which a man could aspire. Carl dropped out of school, kept his day job from 9 to 5 at the camera shop, and got a second job at a metal fabricating plant, working with molten hot metal from 7 pm to 4 am. For much of his wife's pregnancy and his newborn son's first year, he slept 3 hours a night and caught up on weekends, but in the process earned enough to get them an apartment and to be prepared for the costs of starting a family. Over the next 45 years, he continued to work in the steel and machine industry, in the later years as a bookkeeper/manager for a Michigan tool-and-die company, as three more sons were born.
Carl knew he was doing the right thing when he took that job in the factory, and did it enthusiastically. He considered himself fortunate to be able to find not just one but two good jobs in an era when the economy was still recovering from the Great Depression and the job market was flooded with returned GIs.
Working with molten metal could be dangerous, but the dangers were apparent, and Carl took every precaution to protect himself so he could return home safe to his family. What he didn't realize, however, was that the asbestos used at the casting operation was an insidious poison. He didn't realize that the asbestos industry had known for decades that the stuff could kill, but would continue to profitably market it for another twenty years, while actively using their financial muscle to keep the general public in the dark and prevent governments from stopping them.
Last month, Carl injured himself tripping on the stairs and ended up in the hospital with a compression fracture of his spine: what he thought was causing the terrible pain he'd been experiencing in his abdomen. The doctors, however, discovered that his lungs were filled with a rare form of lung cancer - mesothelioma - that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. Last week his doctor told him he had six months to live, and he lives daily with excruciating pain. All because he wanted to do right by his family.