Six months ago today my father passed away. He died of cancer. He was 64 years old. The pain of most losses generally pass as time goes by. However, the loss of a parent is different. For me the void remains and I’ve been told it doesn’t really ever go away.
My dad taught me what I know about doing home repairs, wood working and building in general. I think of him every time I do work on our house. I thought of him as I organized the garage because I know he would have enjoyed working in the space now. My dad helped us on big projects every time he visited from Florida. Even after chemo treatments he would come and tear out tree stumps, re-adhere fallen fireplace tiles or fix our non-draining tub. During his last visit, when he couldn’t walk much and eating was painful, he still helped me fix a vintage toy crib I was restoring for my daughter’s 2nd birthday.
Actually, when I think back at what my dad taught me specifically, I can’t remember any one particular skill. I do know he taught me how to find the problems and come up with solutions, specially creative ones. He also taught me that the most expensive solution generally isn’t the right solution. And junk isn’t always garbage. Often it’s the solving piece of a puzzle.
I also learned from watching his mistakes. When in doubt at Home Depot, buy both options and return the unused one later. It saves time and gas money to not make a million trips back and forth to the store. The cheapest solution isn’t always the right one. Somewhere in the middle seems to be the best bet. If it works, but doesn’t look good, it still needs to be fixed.
Besides all the little projects around the house, my dad did two major projects to the house I grew up in. He built an additional master bedroom and bath, which turned our 1960’s Florida home into a 3 bedroom, 3 bath from a 2/2. He also extended a part of our kitchen-pantry to included another storage room from the garage. He added a window to this room to let in light all the way into our dining room.
I helped him with both of these projects. I remember doing demo work with a sledge hammer to make the window hole and to breakdown an existing wall. It started out as fun and ended up being hard work. I remember being made to help him with the construction of the room. I was a teenager at the time. I wanted to be out at the mall with friends. Instead I was helping him level something or wheel-barrow bags of cement. Today, I’d give anything for that time with him and to learn so much more.
Many years later when I was back home from college I wanted to redo the walk-in closet in my room. I asked my dad for help and he said no. He said he’d advise me but I had to find a plan and do the work myself. I was so angry with him. I couldn’t believe he made me do my project alone when I had to help him with his. Turns out, me doing it by myself taught me more than if we had done it together. I learned not to rely on my dad for solutions and I earned his respect because I didn’t give up on my plan and finished the closet.
I really miss my dad. I keep thinking he’s in Florida and I’ll see him in a few months. Every now and then the reality that I’ll never hear or see him again sets in hard. As I do more things to the house I want him here so bad. I realize now that throughout my life my dad was preparing me for this day. The day that I would have to fend for myself because he couldn’t be around to help me. The void is still here and nothing could have prepared me for that.