Everything I know I learned from watching my dad.
That’s not a new concept but one that certainly applies in my life. Dad is one of those guys who is master of none, a fly by the seat of your pants mechanic, a hit or miss technician – one of those people who has the philosophy that nothing is worth fixing if he doesn’t attempt to fix it himself first. One exception is his carpentry skills, learned from working side by side with his father in law, honed by building several houses of his own. He also grew up farming, not on one of those prosperous farms, but on rented land that his family farmed for others. If they didn’t fix their equipment themselves, it would not get fixed simply because they didn’t have the money to do so. Dad’s attitude is what soaked into my brain more than anything else. I too will attempt to fix most things before I will pay to have a professional perform the deed.
Mom learned her nursing skills not only by patching me up, but also by patching dad up during his many handy adventures. Personal injury is another thing I learned from watching my dad. Still etched on my brain is the horror of watching dad manage to stick a screw driver into his forehead, drive a nail into his hand, gash his forearm with a chainsaw. All injuries involved blood, never broken bones, so mom kept a large kit filled with bandages and salves. My job was usually to run for nurse mom when dad injured himself. You would think that I would have become a paramedic when I grew up (whenever that happens) from all the experience I had in triage for my father.
Dad and I did keep nurse mom busy. I had my share of bloody adventures, compounded by my being one of those barefoot boys who tossed his shoes aside as soon as he went out the back door. Mom even took to calling the mothers of my friends and brought my shoes to me. She had reason – a ripped open foot from sliding underneath a chain link fence while playing backyard football, a crucified foot from dropping a nailed board on top of it while building a canal system in the neighbor’s yard, and various other blisters and burns from walking across tarred roads in the middle of summer. Then there was a ripped open hand (playing with a hubcap), a broken collar bone (bicycle accident), a concussion from dropping a baseball bat on my head (yes, it’s possible), or the messed up face I suffered the night I decided to try alcohol. Mom was a very busy mom nurse.
Dad and I eventually grew up. No longer is it necessary to keep the hospital on speed dial.
Yesterday, as I enjoyed a beautiful autumn day outdoors while replacing the battery cables on my PT Cruiser-To-The-Auto-Parts-Store, I took a moment to stroll around my yard. There is still one fence post left in the back of the yard, one of the posts I put in to replace one of the many rotting posts as the picket fence began it’s death by old age. Our shed had a fresh coat of white paint and repaired doors. A screen door stood partially open in front of the sliding glass door, both which I have fixed with my own hands. The screens on the house windows all sported fresh aluminum mesh, another one of my attempts to save money by doing it on my own. Carefully maintained bicycles fill one bay of our garage, parked in the cool little bike rack I fashioned from PVC pipe, wire baskets, and wood. I don’t really feel like a handyman, but I guess I learned a little from watching my dad. The evidence glared at me on that little stroll around my yard, satisfaction filling me last evening as the car repair was finished and my family relaxed around the fire I had built from firewood I had cut myself and in the fire pit I installed in our backyard.
I wonder what my own son is learning from watching me? An appreciation for bicycles, most likely. A penchant for creativity, I hope, although that one seems to be my daughter’s thing. Attention to detail, something that comes natural to him as evidenced by the way he approaches any sport. We’ll see. He’ll see, I suppose, when he gets to my point in life.