Tools of Dad

I do not need any social media reminder service to tell me who’s birthday is today; May 2 is always etched with being my Dad’s birthday.

Today he would have been 93, but alas his odometer ran out at 72. I do this math, and figure out that when my dad was the age I am now, I would have been 19. How do I measure up? It reminds me of about the same age difference in this old photo, with my Dad as maybe a teen, and his own father.

Undated personal photo of my Dad and grandfather.

Often when I think of Dad, I think of the way he organized and took care of his tools, there was the corner of our unfinished basement with them nearly organized. He had a giant metal toolbox of shiny sockets and wrenches, remainders from his short stint as an owner of a gas station in the 1950s. I had wished I would have gotten that box, but after his death Mom had given it to the neighborhood handyman, who likely made better use of it than I would have.

I remember something calming about sometimes just standing in that space of his in the basement, while he was off at work or napping or put cutting grass. I can almost get the basement dust smell, and the sense of filtered light through the old windows.

So I have these cherished tools of Dad in my own (unorganized) toolbox. Finding them, holding the tools he once feels, is my connection today.

An old screwdriver, chisel, and pliers in a hand over a box of many more tools
Holding Dad’s tools- this image will be uploaded to flickr tonight, and shared under a CC0 license.

I remember that old screwdriver, most of the paint worn, the metal sleeve that never stayed in place- that was the one Dad always used to pop open cans of paint.

The old chisel was part of a set I did take from Mom’s house, a soft pouch of various sized ones that he used for the years he did work as a brick layer. This was after the time he had struggled in University, the experience his parents tried to force on him, and when he decided to be a craftsman like his father and father’s father. I regret I never got to learn the bricklaying craft from him.

An old photo of Dad making a brick patio at the house the family lived in before I was born.
Dad was a bricklayer

The Vice Grips plier was not strictly one of my Dad’s tools, but a story. I remember a time when he helped me fix a wheel on my bike. I could not turn the bolt with a wrench. Rather than him doing it for me, I remember him showing me the way a Vice Grip wrench gave extra leverage.

Tools were important things to Dad, and they are to me as well. He often stressed about taking good care of one’s tools. I do not have to go any farther with this metaphor, do I?

Happy birthday Dad, and thanks for all the tools you showed me. Among my favorite memories are seeing him emerge with his big ____ eating grin from braving the big waves at Ocean City. I love you, Dad.

1970s vintage photo of man holding a surf mat at a beach
Dad coming out of the waves… family photo