Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time with my dad

I was doing some odd jobs around the homestead the other day when I came across an old and weathered screwdriver.
The plastic handle had a variety of paint colours on it, testimony to a life of use and not just sitting on the shelf.
The moment I set eyes on it I was instantly taken back to the days of my childhood, or more accurately, to spending time working with my dad.
I can remember using that screwdriver as a chisel, paint can opener ñ hence the multi-colour motif - a scraper and, occasionally, as a screwdriver.
That screwdriver had been nothing more than a tool, like countless others I have used, but in that moment, it became more than just a piece of chipped metal with a beaten, clear plastic handle.
In that moment, it became a physical link to my past, to my childhood, to working side-by-side with my dad building green houses for our tree nursery, or painting the house.
Holding that slot screwdriver in my hands I could see my dad in his much younger days and how in awe I was of his size ñ he was a large, powerful man ñ of his ability to build just about anything that needed to be built and his tireless work ethic.
When he was not working as a brakeman for the railroad, he was maintaining our two acres of land, half of which was a nursery that kept the entire family busy through all the sunny months.
I spent many hours working next to my father. At the time I did not appreciate what it meant to spend that much time with my dad.
I just saw it as work, as a way to make money, and to be honest, it was something I just had to do. I was the oldest son so it fell to me to help out around the family business.
I was the only kid in Grade 8 with a job.
But I can look back now and see how that job was much more than a source of income. It was one generation passing his wisdom and experience on to the next.
I don't know if dad even realized it, because at the time there was a lot of work to be done and we were the ones who had to do it.
But as we spent hour after hour working the land ñ literally ñ there would be times when we would talk and he would impart his hard-earned wisdom upon his son.
I doubt there were many of my peers who spent as much time with their fathers as I did.
I used to be upset that dad and I never really played together, it was always work, work, work. But, at the end of the day it does not really matter how you spend time together, as long as you do.
Some say quality time makes up for a lack of time, but I disagree. Quality time is fun, but quantity is invaluable.
I have tried to spend time with my sons, and we would all go camping, or riding bikes, go to little league games or whatever we could do as a family where I did my best to pass on the wisdom I had gained and that had been passed to me.
It may have started out as a screwdriver, made in some non-descript factory in the United States, but it has become a fond treasure, a physical link to the past that will forever remind me of working side-by-side with my father.
The screwdriver is in retirement now, far more valuable as a memory than a tool.

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