Remembering Dad

My father liked to give me power tools for my birthday. I was his only child. He wanted to teach me things he knew how to do and two of his many talents were home construction and repairs. Although I never got very far with the construction, I was willing to tackle small repairs.

After I had been married for several years, my dad sent me a router. I wasn't sure I needed or even wanted a router so I returned it to Sears. The electric drill and jigsaw were quite useful, as the router might have been, but I didn't want to figure out how to use it. So I told my dad I already had one. I'm sure that he found that answer hard to believe and of course he was right.

When our son turned 6 years old, grandpa sent him a leather tool belt. It was really nice and included a full size hammer, a T-square ruler with bubble level, some pliers, a flat contractor's pencil and a metal tape measure. Joe liked to wear the belt, low around his waist with all the tools hanging from their designated holsters. Every tool had been engraved with Joe's full name and he seemed proud to receive such a grown-up gift.

In the summer of 1979 my father died suddenly at the age of 61. Dad and I had been in the habit of talking on the phone quite frequently but hadn't seen each other in two years. I had been thinking about driving down, with the kids, to visit him sometime during the next week. The day before I was to leave, a phone call came from his wife informing me that he had just died the night before.

The next several days were full of grief and inevitable guilt — "If only I had thought about visiting him sooner." But my grief soon manifested itself into action and I came up with a fitting penance: I would build a bookcase, in his honor, with the skills and tools my father had given to me.

It was a very hot summer that July in 1979. We had no air conditioning in our home so the intense heat added to my penance. I went to the lumberyard and selected the materials I would need for the project: 4 two-by-ten seven-foot upright supports, one-by-twelve lumber for the shelving and 4-foot lengths of 1-inch doweling. I can still remember that this "easy home project" would require 88 one-inch holes in the two-by-tens. These holes would hold dowels that supported the shelves. Since dad had never had given me a drill press, it was necessary for me to drill each hole "by hand." It took forever to drill those holes. Since I never trusted my measuring skills, I used one board as a pattern for the other three. I was somewhat reassured that the holes would line up making the shelving level.

I worked on this project pretty much full time for two or three days. The upright timbers had to be secured with L-braces and "Mollies" for the hollow walls. My drill and the level made the job easier. I cut all of the shelving with the jig saw then started on the 88 dowels which had to be cut in 4-inch pieces. I used the jigsaw, of course. It was torture.

But at last it was done and I could hardly wait to assemble everything into a finished project. The final stages went surprisingly well; all of the pieces fitting together nicely, as I hoped they would. I proceeded to stack dozens of books on the shelves and then stepped back to look. I could hardly believe I had made this myself!

In 1997 we realized that it was time to remodel our kitchen. The bookcase had to come down. So I carefully disassembled the upright supports and packed the dowels and all of the hardware into a bag. When I told the man at the Goodwill, how easy the bookshelf was to assemble, he gratefully accepted my donation.

I drove away happy.

Kathy Hollis Cooper, professional photographer and Ashland resident since 1971.

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