DAD. Yesterday’s post was dedicated to my Mom. She appreciated the post, as did my siblings, cousins, and childhood neighbors. Everyone seems to remember the wooden spoon and the dog that shit everywhere. God rest his soul. The other half of my parental equation was my Dad, so today’s blog post is dedicated to him, and all the things that HE did right.
He didn’t hold grudges. I didn’t realize this until I was an adult. My Dad and I were talking and he casually mentioned that he sat down and had a beer with my ex-husband. I’m sorry, you what?! As my father, he was supposed to take my side in all situations. My sworn enemies are his sworn enemies. If I HATE him, YOU should hate him…..right Dad?! Wrong. Dad didn’t operate like that.
Every tool in the garage should be labeled and cataloged. Jim was organized. Like, SUPER organized when it came to his tools. Thousands of screws, nails, bolts and washers were carefully separated and labeled in tiny drawers. He kept a 3×5 notecard in the basement with the dates he replaced the water softener salt, and how much he put in. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Unless someone had borrowed the tool without him knowing, (like me), Big Jim knew exactly where to find it.
A tough exterior didn’t mean he was tough. My Dad worked construction his entire life. I used to spend hours staring at all the cracks and wrinkles on his worn hands. And even though he had a tough shell, Dad was a softie. There was a tiny, starving kitten hanging around a job site. He fed it for 3 days, brought it water, and even scooped it up on his lap and took it for a ride in his Bobcat. He eventually brought that kitten home for us. He hung a sign on the door that said “Caution! Lion inside!” We named it Friskie, and it lived for about 27 years or something ridiculous. It was MUCH better than the nasty Persian. Plus it had babies ALL the time, and that was fun.
Be fascinated by shiny things in the mud. There is a whole collection of interesting glass bottles at my Mom’s house. Each and every one of them was found by my Dad while he was excavating a job site. He’d see something shiny in the bucket, and jump down to retrieve it. He’d bring it home and wash it in the laundry room sink like he’d just unearthed the Hope diamond.
Stick to what you like. There was a computer in Dad’s office. Did he use it for typing up proposals, and managing the finances of his construction company? Nope. He used it to play solitaire. Everything he did was on his typewriter. Yep, a typewriter. It’s what he knew and loved, so he stuck with it. Technology be damned, he was going to use that typewriter even after they stopped selling replacement ribbons for it.
Make a big deal out of stuff. For anyone who has ever had to hold down a screaming child to remove an infected sliver from their foot, you know that kids are irrationally afraid of sliver removal. At our house if you had a sliver in your foot, you ALWAYS asked Dad to do it for you. He’d lift us up onto his desk, pull the big light real close, and put on his glasses. Then he’d look at it from all angles, assessing the situation like he was a surgeon. Somehow, it made sliver removal a lot less scary when Dad was taking it so seriously.
It’s ok to be a little fancy. Oh, we’re going to Bobby’s Barrel Inn for the fish fry? I better put on my cowboy boots. And while most people wouldn’t technically consider that “dressing up”, that was Dad’s way of feeling a little fancier eating fried fish in a restaurant with more seats at the bar than at tables, and so clouded with cigarette smoke you couldn’t see across the room.
Perform well in front of your audience. With so many tools that were so perfectly organized, Dad was always fixing or building something. And I was always watching him. He was methodical when he worked, and he seemed to know exactly which steps came next without even looking at a YouTube video or Pinterest tutorial. One afternoon he was conquering the disgusting task of retrieving the “drain ferret” that inevitably lives in a bathroom shared by two teenage girls. He was walking me through the process of re-assembling the sink pieces, and when he turned the water on to demonstrate that it was all working, water came running out the bottom of the cabinet. Oops. He didn’t even hesitate. He simply pointed at the water and said, “Now you know why it’s important to tighten all the pieces. I wanted to make sure you knew that.” Bravo Dad. Bravo.
GONE. Dad hasn’t been with us for a few years, but I still think about him almost every day. I think about him while I’m gagging at the drain ferrets, rifling through my unorganized tool box, but especially when I see his boots. After he passed away, they became my prized possession. Because while Dad might not be here, his boots remind me that he is always with me, and so are the lessons I learned from him.