Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lacquer Thinner & Super Glue

My dad had two universal solvents in his life; lacquer thinner and super glue.

All things could be put back together in some semblance of a combination of these substances. Cuts cleaned and healed, stitches smitches. Stains cleansed, hangnails cured. Throw in the ever elusive duct tape and the man was a modern day MacGyver with a quick fix and all was right with the world.

It wasn't just his knack for building things with great skill, and boy was he a craftsman. I could repeat his creed of "Measure twice and cut once" in my sleep without hesitation. He was an artist. He could look at wood and know in an instant what it was, what tree it came from with the love of someone who had studied the works of the Louvre.

But more than fixing broken down houses and remodeling kitchens with ease, he was the cornerstone of my life. He fixed everything for me.

I know at 30 I shouldn't brag about this as an adult and should rave and go own about my independence and being able to fend for myself. Being able to stand on my own two feet and every other single mother cliché there is out there. But I can't. I stand on a ground that is crumbling beneath me and I long for my father to be here to fix it. To prop it up with his duct tape and super glue and make it all ok.

Akin to Miracle Max in the Princess Bride he was unorthodox in his methods sure. But he was lovable. In 2 days he would have been 59. 59. It's still hard to say that he was only 55 when he died. His life not even close to half over, half lived.

I can see him now, had he lived. Calling his brother in Maryland, just outside D.C. to taunt him of "Snowmageddon". The same brother who every storm we got here in New England would call us laughing from Florida or where he is now asking us about the snow, rubbing in the balmy weather he was enjoying. I can picture his belly laughing as he saw the show on the other foot this time, even with a pending storm coming here again tomorrow.

I can see him with Dylan. "Dylan-ma-nylan" he would say, making silly rhymes out of everything in his sing-songy dyslexic Dr. Seuss ways. Wanting to take Dylan to his wood shop and teach him all there is to know about tools and sawdust. Sitting back in his computer chair, leaning so far back you'd hear the chair creak from strain, and watching his eyes smile as he watched Dylan play and say "Papa look".

I can hear him bellow into the phone as it rang incessantly at my parents house. Off the hook some days it seems. "Is this you?" he would always say in jest, like he'd forgotten who he was talking to, or if the caller ID had steered him wrong. Listen as his Nextel chirped away, bright yellow and stained from a hard day’s work as more people just needed to talk to him.

I can smell him. That combination of sawdust and sweat. Various food stains on the belly of his t-shirt, tucked into his belted tan work pants, complete with suspenders. His hair combed over mostly by hair, its silvery black wave littered with flecks of sawdust from being surrounded all day with hard work. Chubby fingers calloused and sore.

I can hear his laugh. See his white teeth thanks to dentures as he smiled broadly across his wide face. His steely mustache, his "whiskers" as he called them tickling Dylan's face as he kissed him as a toddler. His giant arms squeezing you as he hugged you in instigation, more to annoy you than to cuddle you. His rising tone because he had zero volume control and the constant arguing over nothing with me and my brother, because well that's what we did.

And I want it all back. I want to go back to the chastising for making bad decisions with my life, as I clearly continue to do. I want to go back to hearing that Nextel chirping, even if it's the worst cell phone plan on the planet. I want to go back to weekends of roaming aimlessly around flea markets with him and my mother. To camping in Maine and to Griswoldesque vacations. I want those World War III family arguments. I want the smell of sawdust and sweat that used to sicken me when he'd try to hug me when he got back from the shop. I want to see him blowing out a candle on his 59th birthday cake in 2 days.

And I know I am screwed up. I know I make wrong choices, and I can't let go of things. I hold on to things I can't have, I long for things I want and then walk away when they come close to happening. I have a skewed sense of reality and a false sense of relationships. I have been bruised and battered and beaten and I hate that the only person I feel that can bring me out of any of it is 6 feet underground in a box made of wood I am sure he would criticize.

If only for a moment, and if only in a dream, I wish I could have him with me. To fix things, to guide me. I know his birthday wish would be for his kids to be ok, and I don't know that I am. I need your lacquer thinner and super glue.

February 11....Happy 59th birthday Daddy.

Wish you were here.


  1. Even without looking at the photograph of him, you describe him perfectly. With such love and respect...*sigh*

    Happy Birthday sir!

  2. Happy Birthday to your wonderful father. 55 wow. That is so unfair. I wish you the best Apryl. Big hugs and love your way.

  3. this is a really beautiful post....a tribute that doesn't cross into sap, and makes me smile, and makes me wish I'd known him too. really well done, and so much love and respect to you for expressing something difficult this way

  4. Oh Apryl, I am in tears. I'm so sorry your dad can't be with you today. But I bet, wherever he is right now, he's smiling from ear to ear because he's so proud of his awesome daughter. Major hugs, hon.xoxoxo

  5. April , I am so sorry about your dad! I love my dad so much, don't know what I would do without him. Here's a little something to cheer you up! Just for you! http://recursively.blogspot.com/2010/02/valentines-day-gifts-for-you.html


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