In a previous attempt to get me to record something of my life, your dad asked me to write about something that made me feel proud. As I was thinking about Fathers' Day, it occurred to me that one of the things I am most proud of is that my sons look to me for advice and assistance when they have a problem or something needs fixed. Usually, this is just something like building shelves or a plumbing problem or trouble with a car, but it's the idea that it is me that they turn to that makes me proud.
Many of the skills that I employ when they call I learned from my dad. Farming did not provide the sort of income that allows you to call a professional every time something needs built or repaired, so whether it was carpentry or plumbing, rebuilding an engine or welding a broken implement, Dad just did it. He seemed (at least to me) to have been born with a wrench in his hand. One place where he excelled as a dad was that he insisted that my brother and I work alongside him. This of course is traditional on a family farm, but the basic training in tool use that he made sure we received has served me ever since.
When Dad died, I told the minister preparing the eulogy that Dad's legacy to me was in my hands. Every time I pick up a tool his hand is guiding mine. One time not long after he passed I was repairing the fence around the property we had just bought here in Indiana. Fence building and especially repairing were activities that we did a lot of on the farm, and as I was pulling a strand of barb wire taut and tying it off I felt him there with me. I don't mean like a ghost or anything, just that he was there in each thing I did to mend that fence. That sense of his presence was so strong that I think I stopped mourning for him in that instant. I know he will be with me in that way for as long as I live, and how can you be in mourning for someone who is still there.
I don't know if I have passed anything like that along to your dad and your uncles or not. I know I did not push them to be my apprentice carpenters, plumbers, and mechanics when I was fixing things around home while they were growing up. I apologize to them that I did not. I advise you, my grandchildren, to seek out opportunities to learn and practice manual skills; building and fixing provides a special kind of satisfaction not available anywhere else. I hope that you have some opportunity to practice these skills alongside your dad so you can understand and share the bond I had with mine.
As usual, this essay has gone in a somewhat different direction than I thought it would when I started. That isn't only OK, it part of the fun. I've spent a few minutes enjoying remembering my dad and hope you haven't minded being dragged along.