I was obsessed earlier this week! Over the course of two days, I ripped down the 8x8 foot peg board and long shelf that was at the back our garage and installed four 4 foot shelves and two tool racks/holders. There was something really satisfying about the whole project. I got a real sense of competence and satisfaction working with hammers, nails and power tools! That's why I say my dad would have been proud, since he is the one who taught me how to use them.
When I went off to college, I was one of the few girls on my dorm that came equipped with my own tool box containing hammer, nails, and screw drivers, thanks to Dad. While in high school, he had me work alongside him finding studs and cutting wood. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the smell of cut wood brings back memories of him. His own father was a carpenter and craftsman who not only built houses but also created beautiful inlaid furniture and decorative items. All of my siblings and I have beautiful card tables with inlaid chess sets that my grandfather made for each of us. My dad also made some smaller inlaid items but sadly that skill was not passed down to our generation.
My father was an engineer, a life long reader of Scientific American and a firm believer in science. But he also had an artist's soul. He had a creative side that he was able to express once he retired by making stain glass items and then gold jewelry. He was the type of man who would stop to appreciate and point out to others, the beautiful sunset, the funny pelicans or the stars at night.
His job took us overseas to Asia, and every summer we would return home to the States via Hawaii. We stopped both coming and going and Oahu & Maui became our Jersey shore...a place to return to each summer. It became a running joke: each time we stayed on Oahu, Dad would make us drive around the island to appreciate the view of Rabbit Island, or stand in wind at Nu'uanu Pali lookout. And in Maui we always had to do the hair raising drive to Hana. At this point in our lives, my sister and I would have preferred laying out by the pool or on the beach but Dad loaded us into the car to see the island's natural beauty. And of course now, as I look back, I'm so grateful that he did.
My dad was the definition of a gentleman, a truely gentleman. He rarely swore or raised his voice. He was smart, honest and hard working. He put himself through college, the first of his family to go, working at a local diner. When he passed away and his passing was listed in Lehigh's alumnae bulletin, I received a call from a classmate of his. Consider that my father graduated college in 1939 and this was 2007 when this man called just to tell me what a wonderful guy my father had been.
He loved my mom passionately...the kiss he gave her every night when he returned home from work, was never perfunctory...he kissed her with all his heart. Once when I went to visit my parents in Florida, when my dad was in his late 80s, I heard Glenn Miller playing in the kitchen. The two of them were holding each other close and slowly moving to the music.
But just because he was quiet didn't mean he was a push over...he had a stubborn German streak that many of us have inherited. My mom was definitely the expressive and stronger personality of the two, but he balanced her and didn't let her ride over him. And god, was he handsome! But the best kind of handsome because I don't think he really knew it or cared.
We went to the funeral of the father of a close friend yesterday and of course, funerals make you think more acutely of those you've lost. Plus his birthday is at the end of this month. Dad had a stroke when he went out for a walk and died. I would like to think that he was appreciating a cloud formation or a palm tree when he went.
|Ralph W. Helwig, 1916-2007|