Fortune cookiesDad would always bring home his extra cookies. These were cookies he had brought to work in the first place, then saved up and to give to us kids.

The normal work day would have Dad up before 5 each morning, quickly shaving and grabbing a cup of coffee and fried egg before his co-worker picked him up. They would be at work by 5:30 A.M. Of course, Mom was also up at this time, dutifully brewing that coffee and frying that egg while Dad was scraping the overnight beard from his lathered chin. She also packed his lunchbox, which always seemed to have many more cookies than he could finish. I suspect this was on purpose.

He had worked in shipyards, hardware stores, and the family farm before, but in these memorable years Dad’s work was in a shop making metal and fiberglass parts for a defense contractor. Most days were spent standing at a lathe cutting, sanding, turning, facing, and sometimes knurling each piece into something usable. Sometimes these were rocket nozzles; other times the fins of missiles. Breaks and lunch took place in a small section off to the side on the main floor. Occasionally I would go with my mother to pick him up from work; if we were a little early we got to sit in this lunch area and watch Dad finish up his last piece of the day.

Years later I would come to understand why the cookies he brought home tasted like metal filings or fiberglass dust. As part of my own job I visited workshops similar to the one my Dad had worked and witnessed first hand, from the perspective of an environmental scientist, the haze of dust hanging in the air. Back in the day (that’s how old folks refer to their younger days) it was uncommon (even “sissy”) to see anyone wearing a dust mask, never mind a fully-functioning air purifier.

No wonder the cookies tasted so gritty.

Still, as a child, these cookies were a fortune to us kids. And Dad was the fortune-giver.

He still is.

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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