Courtesy of the Vitiello Family
Michael Vitiello, retired cement mason and union business agent, now shares ties to construction with a daughter who had no intention of doing anything linked to the industry.

"It's only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home—it's only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love." — Margaret Truman

My father, Michael Vitiello, is a retired cement finisher, and I grew up in a family full of construction workers. My uncles and cousins all seemed to be in the business.

As far back as I can remember, I vowed that I would never have a job in the construction industry. Yet now I find myself walking in my father’s work boots after all.

Growing up in a mostly white-collar neighborhood in upstate Amherst, N.Y., outside blue-collar Buffalo, it was obvious that my experiences with my dad were much different from many of my friends. While other kids’ dads went to work in suits and ties, my dad went to work every day in work shirts and blue jeans.

For Father’s Day each year, we never gave dad a tie because he only wore those on special occasions. Instead, we gave him new T-shirts and crew socks to replace the ones that were worn and holey from being worn to work each day.

Instead of leaving the house for work with a briefcase each morning, my dad carried his bucket of tools, his brown-bag lunch and a thermos full of hot coffee.

When we traveled on trips or family vacations, my dad was always just as interested in the construction sites and finished concrete work as he was in the tourist attractions of whatever city we were visiting.

He would stop to talk to anyone in a hardhat who was close to a project site to find out more about the project.

We would discover photos of these far-away construction projects or some detail of work he particularly admired among the pictures that we developed after returning from our vacation.

For a long time, I did not understand his fascination with construction or his work. To me, nothing about the construction industry seemed modern or cutting-edge. In fact, it seemed very old-fashioned and antiquated.

After all, construction has been around for thousands of years. There was nothing new or innovative about bricks and mortar or wood and nails. Even the tools he used—mostly trowels and floats—looked remarkably similar to tools used hundreds of years ago.

Undetected Pride