Eight years ago, my dad arrived for Christmas earlier than expected and my kids were at their dad’s house. I decided I was not going to cancel plans that were important to me. I got him settled, gave him the spare house key and asked him to relax, there was nothing to fix or clean. He seemed tired from his drive to Montana from Seattle but seemed to be tracking me alright. I reluctantly heaved out a heavy sigh and thought… oh, good, maybe I can go relax. A couple hours into my dancing event, my home number appeared on my cell. I felt my stomach pit up and the immediate urge to pee.
Resolutely I thought… this was nothing, everything was fine. I picked up and said hello. My dad said hello in the midst of laughing and asked if my front door lock had ever fallen apart after putting the key in it. I squeaked out, nnnooooo… and heard my voice go up several octaves. I thought, geez friggin’ la-wheez, I can’t do anything without having to focus on what’s happening at home. Ok, well, I need to have him use the special master key to pop the lock back in… good, good, on me. I am choosing to problem solve.
The lock on my door at the time was one that allowed me to insert a special master key, turn it, and pull out the guts of the lock for easy replacement. My house used to be a rental. That way, each time a new renter came, the owner didn’t have to replace entire door knobs, only the part where the key goes in.
I asked him to get the special master key from my dresser and instructed him what to do. He said he’d call if he had a problem. I got home after midnight and put my house key in the door – it didn’t fit. I thought, what the heck? After several attempts, I figured out that he had put the lock back in… upside down. I thought, oh well, we can put it right side up in the morning.
In the morning, I got the master key, put it in into the lock but it didn’t fit. Dad was nattering away about the details of him putting the lock back together the evening before. My irritated shoulders went up around my ears; I asked for the spare key that he used to get in the house. I put it in the lock and the guts of lock came out. I thought, what friggin’ the heck – how does his spare key pull the lock apart and the master key doesn’t?
Perplexed, I stared hard at the spare key I had given my dad. I noticed that there was a square notch missing from the side of the key that is normally smooth. I thought, holy crap, I gave dad the special master key rather than a spare house key, which is why the lock “fell apart.”
Smiling slightly, shaking my head, I put the lock back together with the special master key and then gave my dad a real spare house key. I apologized for my irritation from the prior evening. In in his usual good- natured way, he slapped me on the back saying it was ok and asked what was on the agenda for the day.
I worked off my remaining frustration doing chores and awhile later noticed my dad napping on the couch. I stopped and slowly took in his calloused, knotted knuckles and hands, deep lines in his face, white hair, and work clothes which showed years of outdoor labor.
He told me to ask mom to wait near the wood stove should he need help as he proceeded. He got his 22 rifle and a few minutes later from inside the house, I heard a loud KAA-BLANG as he shot the rifle down the chimney. The soot covers flew off the chimney raining soot all over us and inside the house. The neighbor sat in his rocking chair across the alley howling like a dog, slapping his knee laughing. We had to replace the living room carpet.
Another time when I was about 12, my dad had a horrible sinus infection, we went to the health food market to see if there was a natural way to cure it. Eureka! We found a brochure on how cayenne pepper was supposed to help sinus problems. Back home in the kitchen, I thought, what’s he going to cook? …this stuff is spicy hot and he won’t need much. Rather than making something to eat, he put a bit on his index finger, stuck it under his nose and snorted it in. Before my mouth could drop open, he leapt to the sink and turned on the facet. Choking, gasping for air with fingers up his nostrils, he tried to get it out. I snatched a towel and yelled for my mom to come help. No emergency room visit…his spiced nasal burns took about a week and a half to heal and by then, his sinus infection was gone too.
When he retold these and many, many other stories, he’d laugh heartily about why the good Lord let things happen. As a young adult, my eyes pitched toward the ceiling. I listened to him grim faced, arms folded, and sometimes blistering mad. Being the oldest child, I was almost always asked to clean up messes and I remember feeling like I was never big enough to clean things up or acquire the know-how to prevent bad things from happening in the first place. It took me awhile to view his antics humorously.
Then there were the things he tried to help me with or repair. In helping paint the garage, he spent three hours rigging up a pulley system for the extension ladder with duct tape and old buckets while I managed to paint two sides of the garage. When he went to clean and repair the venting fan in the kitchen, I watched him go through several phases of cleaning and reinstalling it. He finally called me back into the kitchen. With the fan lying on the counter in many pieces, he said, “Well, it’s clean! Good news you won’t have a grease fire. Bad news is that it won’t work now.” Rolling my eyes, we put it back together best we could and I called an electrician.
Holidays often help me remember to reflect on what I have, things that are important to me, and also my dad. He had enthusiasm that kept our family together and life interesting. He touched everyone’s heart with his generosity and infectious joy.
Eight years ago, I also remember feeling glad that old thought patterns had been changing and I had really come to appreciate the intent behind all my dad’s out-of-the-box ways of doing things. I realized that his influence in my life is part of what makes me unique, cool, weird, and gives me a deep sense of faith & value of life.
Folding up the year of 2016, I have accomplishments to be proud of, people that love me, solid work, good family, friends, and all of the other essentials. I am richly blessed. Happy. Able to love. Create. Live with much gusto and joy. I encourage you to reflect on what you are proud of, your strengths, your cool weirdness, the love you share in life, and make more of that in 2017! Cheers and happy holidays!
One encouraging voice can mean so much.
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