There he is. That's my dad. I cropped the picture to just show his eyes because it reminds me that he's always watching me. He lives next door, you know. He's not the picture taking kind of guy, so out of respect, I will not post the few full shots of him that do exist in my computer files. Besides, my facebook profile looks kind of like this. Just Eloise's eyes. Like father, like daughter.
The blog post today honors some of the things Dad has made over the years. A welder by trade, now retired, he has the tools to make metal stick together. When you have that, all kinds of things are possible. Opting for utility over aesthetics, my dad finds a use for almost anything. In the barn you'll find a coffee can of old screws, big black ones with rusted heads. The can has been around for decades like most of his stuff. I remember it well. His stubby fingers fished from that very can when he repaired my Barbie doll arm in 1976. The conversation went something like this:
Eloise, age 5: Daddy, my Barbie's arm fell off. Can I have a new one?
Dad: (scrunching up his face) A new one? Why do you NEED a new one? We can fix this one.
Eloise, age 5: (brightening in my naivete) Really? You can?
Dad: Sure. I just need to get something from the basement.
....an hour and a half later......the man has his own timetable and refuses to be rushed.......
Dad: (emerges from the basement, Barbie in hand) There! Here she is. Good as new.
Barbie, in her one shouldered 1970's style hot pink evening dress was handed to me with a blackened thumb print across her abdomen. A few stray ashes from his cigarette remained in her perfectly coiffed hair.
Eloise, age 5: (confused look on face). Dad, what is that?---a black screw jutted out of Barbie's shoulder, connecting her arm to her collarbone.
Dad: (sensing some disappointment) What's the matter with that? It's just a screw. Put a different dress on her. Doesn't she have a t-shirt or something?
Eloise, age 5: No, Daddy. Karen (Kenyan) and I are playing Miss America. She has to wear the evening dress.
Dad: Well when you get to the question-answer session, have Barbie say she was in Vietnam. Tell the audience that's shrapnel.
Eloise, age 5: What's shrapnel?
...a peek at the beginnings of my life with my father.
It is handy having him live next door. He likes to remind me when it's garbage day. He also likes to scold me when I put it out too early on a windy day and neglect to secure the lid and all my crap blows into his yard. Dad's usually outside, and I can see him from The Lamp Post picking it up, grumbling. That's when I know to lay low for awhile.
The man is always outside. He gets crabby if he gets stuck indoors too long. Like father, daughter. That's why I took up outdoor forms of exercise. The biggest form of exercise Dad gets though is stooping to pick up fallen branches from his heavily treed yard. Often he puts them in the burn pile he uses to light fires out in his Pole Barn. He calls the Parsonage. This is it:
Vocabulary lesson: Parsonage--noun, official residence provided by a church for its parson; a rectory.
Parsonage? Not quite. The standing joke in my house is that Dad goes out there are prays to the Tool God every morning. I thought of a better name for it. I call it The Flame. The Flame is actually the name of one of the Dharma Stations on my favorite TV show ever in life, LOST. It's such a fitting name because this is what is inside. The incinerator:
The incinerator is on the left. He likes to burn any garbage he can along with sticks and twigs and old newspapers. Those are my old stove burner grates attached the the side. Why? I am not sure, but I know they were just too good for him to throw away. He created the term "upcycle." The little thing to the right is his smoker. I named it R2D2. You can see the bucket of corn cobs sitting near it. Dad smokes a mean ham come holiday time. He also made a second smoker called a "cold smoker" that he smokes cheese in. Aldi's sharp cheddar is my favorite. The fan that is suspended from the rafters and that hood thing on the incinerator are part of a unit I named Sky Lab. I think it has something to do with circulating heat. Remember what I said earlier: utility over aesthetics.
The pole barn has been around since I've been 8. My property line is just 10 feet from the corner of it. It is a cavernous area with more square footage than my house. In it he has a collection of items organized into little areas or piles. You can see the "scrap wood" area in the back of the above photo. One of my nicknames for my dad is Squirrel. That's one he can know about. I have others. He kind of has a way of finding things and piling them up much like a squirrel saves up nuts for the winter.
He saves coffee containers:
Old rusted, ladles...never know when you might need one:
And various other odd tools he's collected over the years. Many were salvaged from the old barn, built in 1861 that used to stand near that spot. The barn collapsed under a heavy snow on Christmas morning of 1976 and is long gone, but the stone foundation is still behind The Flame. He now calls this area The Warehouse. It is the home for old toilets, scrap metal, and one wheeled bikes (because he used the other wheel to make something).
The Flame smells like a combination smoke and gasoline, two smells that remind me of my dad. The Parsonage/Flame was actually his second out building. The first one was this one. The Hideout:
He built this himself in the 1970's. His first workshop. Farmer Richter had to come and move it with his fork lift in 1998 to make room for my house. My parents gave me a chunk of their property to build my house on, and the Hideout was sitting where my kitchen needed to be. It found its new home nestled back in the trees and is a great storage unit for bikes and strollers.
This horseshoe hangs over the door. Our property was once a horse pasture and over the years we've dug up several horseshoes. If you hang one, you have to always orient it so the points are upward so your luck doesn't run out.
Like father, like daughter. I liked that idea and found the horseshoe below when we dug the foundation for my house. I had it hanging over my front door until one day it fell from its roost, nearly killing Eloise. I forgot about hammering in a couple of securing nails. It's new and safer resting spot is here with me up in The Lamp Post, points up so my luck doesn't run out.
Several years ago, the Garagemahal project was complete. Dad had this beauty built to put their cars in, among other things. I bought them the gold O you see in the center.
If The Flame is a museum for old tools, The Garagemahal is a showcase for his newer stuff. In it he has displays of his favorites. Here are some of them:
His jeep. See me?
You'll spot my parents tooling around in it from time to time. It's the one with the American flag sticker on the rear window, and the dog's head sticking out of the back. My mother will be driving because my dad rarely drives. He prefers to be chauffeured.
The Garagemahal is organized into areas, showcasing his favorites--beer, the Pittsburgh Steelers, German flags, and trains.
Here's his shrine:
Like father, like daughter. Here's mine:
Mine is not so tough. I only like one kind:
Like father, like daughter.
Although I have an issue with this next poster:
This is my favorite beer guy. Sometimes when I write and make reference to my Dad, I use this picture.
Welding trains in Building 10 for 42 years put me through college, where I learned to write. Thanks, Dad.
A picture of the GE Guys, circa 1970's. Dad has on the red shirt and cool shades.
This, by far is my favorite piece. It's my favorite because I gave it to him.
I found it while on a trail run last summer. Eloise is 5'8", wears a size 9 1/2 shoe, and has a bladder the size of a walnut. I can't make it through a run without stopping to pee. For a girl, this can pose a bit of a problem. Luckily, I found the perfect spot, off the road a bit, in the tall weeds under the Sumacs. I'd stop at the same spot every time. After a week or so, I detected a bit of a metallic sound as I did my business. Girls ears are a bit closer to the ground when they wee wee. When I kicked the dirt aside with the toe of my Mizuno, I saw metal!
Knowing that I am completely nuts as you all do, there is only one thing I could have thought: I discovered the HATCH! Only Losties would understand. Rather than try to dig it up in one day, that hidden pee spot drew me back day after day. It gave me fuel to get up and run--just to see what I'd discovered by my
urnination dedication. Was it a treasure box? A man hole cover to a secret, underground world? (The mind of a creative writer can go a bit astray).
I'd uncover a little more every day, and I eventually found this sign that once marked an entrance to a Harbor creek park. After I dug up the first one, I found a second one beneath it. Much like Boone and Locke on LOST, I'd do a little stealth work every day, and then cover my unearthing with branches and weeds so no one else would discover my find. Remember this, Losties? Still get a charge out of it just looking at the picture.
So one sign I cleaned up and gave to him this past Christmas. The other one, I gave to him as a project. He's chipping away it a bit at a time. Tim May, if you are reading this post, look the other way, Brother. Finders Keepers.
What I really wanted to give my dad for Father's Day was a new grill. He deserves a shiny new one with the cook center. All the man eats is meat and it would be put to good use. I even got Kenyan to go halfsies on it with me. Last obstacle was running it by my mother. The conversation went something like this:
Eloise, now 41: Mom, I have an idea for Dad for Father's Day.
Eloise, now 41: Of course that, but something else, too. How about a new grill?
Mom: That would be nice, but the couple we have at home and the one at the cottage are still functional. You know he won't like something new.
Eloise, now 41: I know. I know. He'll say that he doesn't NEED it. He likes his old, rusted out grills.
Here they are. See the pile of sticks Squirrel made under the one on the left?
That's because he gutted one and cooks his steak over a wood fire.
Look what he uses to catch the grease drips:
So, I listened to the wisdom of my mother, knowing in my heart that she is right. He wouldn't like a new grill when his other three were perfectly functional. Maybe someday, but not this year, Dad. Instead I have your favorite thing chilling over in your garage refrigerator. Don't worry. I turned on the alarm system. Some little turd got in there and robbed his beer refrigerator a couple of years ago. Cleaned him out, but they left him one. I thought it was pretty funny until they came and got mine the next week, along with two fishing poles and a pair of hip waders. Word to the petty criminals: I would not attempt this again. The man is a genius with trip wires and lasers. Don't mess with his beer, Man.
So cheers to you, Dad. Enjoy your Father's Day. I'll walk across the yard later and have one with you. Mine will be in a green bottle though. Like father, like daughter.