Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unlikely Angel

Walked into Mom and Dad's house yesterday and followed the sound of the shop vac to the basement. Found Mom on her hands and knees, sobbing as she sucked up sawdust from under a large piece of woodworking equipment.

"What are you doing, Mom?" I asked.

"I've got to get this cleaned up. Your dad's got someone coming here tomorrow to buy all this stuff," she answered.

I asked what stuff she meant, and the whole story tumbled out. Over the last few months, Dad has asked each of us if we wanted any of his woodworking stuff. Each of us has answered in some vague, "I don't know what I'd do with it" manner. What we meant was, "We want your stuff in your shop where it belongs."

Dad, you see, is a woodworker. Through the years, he has built tables and chairs and cabinets for Mom and for each of us kids. But the real treasures that emerged from his workshop were the toys. Each of his grandchildren has toys the likes of which most people have never seen. Each girl has a handmade miniature Queen Anne dining table and chairs along with a matching china cabinet. Both boys have drop-leg desks. Each child has a rocking horse. Each child has cars and trucks and tractors. Evan has dinosaur pull toys. Katie has a dog pull toy. Now adults, the kids have pieces of their grandfather's love to share with their own children. And their grandchildren after that.

Dad has not been able to work in the shop for quite a while now, and it's been on his mind. "I am not leaving this mess for your mother to deal with," he said yesterday. "It took her brother five years to take his wife's robe off the bathroom door. What in the world would she do with the tools I collected over a lifetime?"

And so, Dad placed an ad in a woodworker's forum. Someone responded immediately, of course. Dad made arrangements to sell all his equipment--the table saws and the band saw and the joiners and planers and the drill press--for mere pennies. More painful to me and to Mom, he planned to give the man all his hand tools. The big equipment I could stand, but not the Jorgensen wood clamps, daubbed with glue and stain from decades of use. Not the brace and bit--one of the first tools Dad owned. Not the hand plane or the chisels or the calipers. Not the things he wrapped his hands around as he worked his magic. Not the things that the bear marks of his living and his loving.

Just before I arrived, Dad had run to the store for a bolt. Mom was in the shop alone, vacuuming and sobbing. She did not want to let these things go. We talked and cried. I promised to keep this thing from happening, grabbed my phone, and drove home to make calls in private.

My brother doesn't want the tools and didn't have time to talk about it. My nephew got defensive. In desperation, I called my former husband.

"Don't let him sell his tools to a stranger, Jerri," he said without hesitation. "I'll buy them. Whatever the man offers, I'll pay more. I'll drive down and pick them up. I'll come whenever he wants. Please, don't let your dad's things just disappear. At least, if I have them, they're still in our family."

We've been divorced for 16 years.

Bill has a full shop at his home. He has no actual need for a single one of these tools. For him, as for me, it is simply too much to think of Dad's things in the hands of a stranger.

When I thanked him, and Bill said, "I love your dad. I always have. And I respect him as much as anyone I ever knew. I don't want strangers to have his tools."

When I told Mom and Dad that Bill wanted the tools, they both broke down in tears. Dad called the man to cancel the appointment. He sobbed as he explained that his kids wanted his things to stay in the family.

Mom picked up the phone twice yesterday afternoon to call Bill to thank him. Both times, she ended up crying so hard she hung up before she could finish dialing. She plans to try again today.

The growths in Dad's good lung are growing. He's having a PET scan on the first and we'll get the results from that as well as a battery of other tests on the 12th. He's known this for a couple weeks but didn't tell anyone until yesterday. All this flurry of activity, this press to get rid of his things is his way of trying to soften the blows headed toward us all.

Please pray or hold him in the Light or simply hold space for the great heart of this good man.


Anonymous said...

Oh Jerri.

My heart aches for you, your mom and your family.

And I'm blown away by Bill's reaction.

Why is the circle of life so painful at times? How can love hurt so much?

Praying for you...


Deb Shucka said...

So much light and dark in the same story, but the thing that comes through loudest is all the love. I'm so sorry for this impending loss and all the attendant losses you're living with along the way. Holding space and love and light for your whole family. I'm here for you.

Carrie Wilson Link said...





BONNIE K said...

So sad, and yet so heartwarming.

Jeanie said...

This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read, and my hat is off to Bill for his love, generosity and kindness - and to you and your family for finding the right spot. It's so very hard to experience this period in life, but it feels as though there is support and love and that will help.

kario said...

Sometimes love comes from the craziest places, doesn't it?

Sending love and light for your dad with some to Bill as well.

And lots of love and light for your family. said...

Sending you and your family so much love Jerri.