Saturday, August 25, 2012


It was a cozy, if cluttered, nook - a haven of civility in a harsh world.

My father's workshop, which he slowly (over the years) built onto the garage, housed a home-made workbench with a bench vise, several shelves to hold supplies, and piles upon piles of tools, each with its own specific purpose; he knew where each of them was. He would spend hours (sometimes days) out there, working on some project usually for a friend, sometimes for a family member - for which he would take absolutely no payment.  That was his gift, his legacy to the world, if he but knew it.  He cared for each tool like it was an old friend.  He allowed each tool to share in the gift that was his generosity to others. 

On the opposite wall of the "shop", he had installed a wood-fired stove, which kept the place toasty warm and inviting in the winter.  There was a dusty armchair by the door, pervaded with sawdust and a few tiny wood chips, another similar chair beside the stove, and in the corner there was a cot made up into a bed with a small pillow and a woolen bed-spread on it - the perfect place for him to nap, or just to lie down in a little bit of peace and quiet away from the demands and rigors of living with a nit-picking wife who preached at him on every topic from church attendance to the evils of nicotine. The clutter, I learned by osmosis over the years (because he never actually said so), was a barrier to keep her out. She never went out there unless she had to.  He liked it like that. 
HERE's where I got this photo

It was his realm, his kingdom, and he was the benevolent ruler there.  Here, I would go to spend time with him, watch him work, pass him a tool once in a while.  Or just sit by the stove with him and listen to the fire crackle.  The atmosphere was supremely peaceful, restful.  


He didn't expect anything of me.  He was just glad to have my company.  I knew that here, nobody could touch me, nobody could hurt me.  If I brought with me any of the drama from the goings-on inside the house, he would quell it with a sharp look and an unspoken reminder of the unwritten rule:  This is my refuge. I allowed you in here. We come here to escape the shenanigans, the manipulation, the intimidation that is so much a part of what's under the Other Roof.  This is different. This is ...


This was where I could be myself.  To have my feelings.  To say how I felt. To soak in the restfulness - to drink in the earthy smell of sawdust, of wood smoke, of 3-in-1 oil.  To enjoy the one thing I could get in no other place (not across the yard, and not in the place with the steeple up on top of the hill): acceptance.  

He died in the fall of 1993, when our youngest was 16 months old.  

Soon afterward, a van driven by a mercenary family member arrived at his little house and literally raped his workshop; the driver took every last thing that he so lovingly cared for and used to help other people, and left an empty shell - only to take it to his own home and let it gather dust and rust.  I tried going out there to Dad's workshop once after that, tried to recapture that sense of peace, of safety.  But it had changed.  It was cold, violated, distant, void of life. 

He wasn't there anymore.  It wasn't safe any more.  It wasn't home anymore.  

When I say that I miss him, I miss him deep in my heart, in that place within which he made a space to be himself with no apologies, and where he allowed me to be me with no shame.  I miss his smile, his deep bass voice, his smell.  I miss his hard, calloused hands that could be gentle enough to solder the broken wires in a tiny hand-held calculator so someone didn't have to buy a new one.  I miss his stories of the railroad and of his logging days with the horses and the pull-chains, his company, his acceptance ... his love.

That safety, that peace, that sense of being protected, of being at "home" is one I've only found in one other place.  I've tried to find it all my life, with different things, in the company of various people.  Sometimes I got the opposite, and other times I've gotten really, REALLY close to that "safe home" feeling.  

But only one place exudes that same ambiance for me.  

It's a little, well-secluded, somewhat cluttered place inside my heart, the one to which I go too seldom - the one with the warm hearth, with the burning fire in the little stove, with two armchairs, and about sixty-six books on the shelves.  I sit in one chair, and in the other, larger chair sits...

My Father.

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