The people who wrote the directions on the back of the caulk tube were lying. They said, “just squeeze out an even line, run your wet finger over it to make it look good and it will dry in 24-48 hours. None of these things were true. There is no such thing as an even line when squeezing goo out of a tube. Running my wet finger over the goo didn’t flatten it or shape it, it just made most of it come off onto my finger and we now are on day 3 and it’s still not fully dry. The good news is that is seems to be self leveling…the one thing they didn’t mention on the tube.
I channeled my dad while taking on this project of re-caulking our tub last weekend. My dad can make anything, fix anything or invent anything he needs out of supplies from the basement workshop. When my mom and dad wanted a deck, he built one. All hardwood floors, installed by dad. A fully working, wired by hand recording studio, done. Need a coffee table, an electronic gizmo or something created from scratch, repaired or improved on, or even a “remote-controlled-monster-truck-with-the-addition-of-a-large-stuffed-animal-on-top-that-you-can-have-run-in-your-yard-to-scare-the-Canada-geese-off-your-property”? He can do that. He did that. The video of “Taz” moving across the lawn towards the geese is hilarious.
I grew up in awe of my dad. My favorite moments were when I would go with him to Radio Shack and watch him look for wires and gadgets, follow him to the hardware store or just watch him sketching out diagrams for how his new design would work. One of my favorite things I have from my dad is this diagram he drew when he came out to our house to help us hook up some electronics. I was confused about how to get everything plugged through the receiver so we could get everything playing through the stereo, so we could be taping one TV show on the VCR (OK, this was a little while ago) while watching something on another channel. My dad showed up with this…
…a fully laid out diagram (along with an instruction manual) for how we would now watch TV and use the VCR’s using A/B switches and how to re-hook everything back up the next time we moved and he wasn’t there. This hook up is long gone and more modern equipment has replaced the VCR but I cherish this diagram. This is LOVE. This is DETAIL. This is the paper I will grab and take with me if the house is ever on fire. This is my dad. My brain just doesn’t work this way.
I struggled growing up because I so wanted to be like my dad but never had the attention span required to plan ahead on a project. Measure twice cut once was more like cut it and no worries if one end is shorter than the other, I can just add some cool shiny paint to distract away from it.
I always had grand visions of my dad and I in his workshop, building, creating something together, both of our tongues sticking out slightly, a sign of deep concentration and apparently a family trait that I have seen my nephew do when he is “building”. But the problem was that I realized that I wasn’t that interested in building a table or helping install hardwood floors. I wasn’t interested in “measuring” anything.
My mind is more random, you could say… “short attention span”….hey look at that shiny thing over there…OK, I’m back. When I am about to create something it often comes on quickly and I can almost hear the Little Rascals saying “Let’s put on a show!” and they all start cheering and getting to work. I often start out that way. An excitable 1am idea that then turns into a deeper, slower breathing meditation. I am the paint, the brush, the line where the watercolor pigment granulates and collects. I can sit with it for hours in a wordless dialogue, my thoughts praising the line, the curve of the paint or the way a bright color contrasts against a black line.
One of the first projects I remember working on with my dad where I finally understood how to join our combined talents was when I wanted to make a light box. I had the concept of wanting a black box with colored light bulbs. My excitement came from the idea of creating an object that would provide an ambiance, a feeling, an effect. My dad went right to the mechanics and exact measurements and wiring needed to pull this off. Ah…synchronicity!
I have discovered that I do indeed carry on my dad’s gene and love of building, but from a slightly different perspective. My passion is looking at a random thing and seeing its potential. For example, my desire to create swirling wire stems with colorful felt buds for my vase.
Or to give an upgrade to our lampshade.
It’s an experience and mood that I’m seeking when I create something. But in many ways I see a piece of me in my dad…a beautiful wooden book stand he created for my favorite dictionary, measured perfectly, with a splash of art at the top in the form of a colorful wooden inlay.
Or the way he brands his wooden creations with a unique “MGA” that burns his legacy into our family tree forever. I sense that he too has the desire to “leave something behind” when he is gone just as I do.
Or the excitement he gets when I ask for a project, “Can you make me a wooden box so I can have a miniature “zen rock garden” on my coffee table? Can you make a box I can fill with sand with a hanging pendulum so it will rotate and make patters in the sand?”. He never makes fun of my ideas or needs, I think he even feels my excitement is a little contagious at times…”Yes Beth, it’s on its way”.
The other day my dad called me and said, “I was inspired by your re-caulking the tub and decided it was time to do ours as well”. We shared a laugh as well as our complaints about the process.
And here is where the difference lies.
My dad said “I decided to put down blue painter’s tape along both of the edges where the caulk would go. Then I laid the caulk, ran my finger over it to make it smooth, then pulled the tape off the top and bottom edges (I’m ooooing and ahhhing by now), and then I smoothed those edges. Perfect line.”
I didn’t think of doing that myself and honestly, I’m not sure I would have had the patience even if I had. It seemed too much like measuring. But I marvel at my dad’s attention to detail and I am constantly inspired by him. My first memories of “creating” came from observing him and witnessing his dedication and pride on a job well done. Seeing the satisfaction he had by creating something with his own hands.
On my best day I am still only half the person my dad is but I like the idea that it gives me a lifetime of something to strive for. And while I do, I will continue to write, and paint and create…because I must. Because I must.