Sunday, July 10, 2011


     If you are fortunate, as I am, to have an elderly dad who still lives quite independently, in his own home, then you don’t mind, at my own age of almost 69, if you have to paint his house.
Did that the other day -- the same beige/tan that matches the aluminum siding he had installed 25 years ago, a color to which he is now attached because my late mom liked it. In fact, my father will not change much about his house because my mother chose the furniture, etc.
It’s not that he is maudlin nor romantic. He’s an ex-Marine who doesn’t get too emotional over anything. (“If I survived Marine boot camp, I could face anything,” he once told me.) No, my dad honors my mom by not changing much, and I think it’s the reason he rattles around in a 1,500 square-foot home.
You are never far from returning to childhood when you are around a parent, no matter what your age, despite being a parent and grandparent yourself. There are always the old issues, the usual father/son posturing that never steps down, and probably a sub-conscious desire to get back to the more carefree days of youth.
My day of painting went smoothly enough -- my dad leaves me alone to do my job, as he learned to do when I put in the attic electrics in the sixth grade. (House wiring was pretty simple then, and a few issues of Popular Mechanics pushed me into the self-taught world.) 
As I painted, I came to areas of the house that needed repair, and I used tools from my dad’s garage, including an old hammer that went to the woods with me for treehouse building in the seventh grade. There was also the box of nails from those days.
I see my father often enough, but it’s usually just a check-in and some conversation. He likes no fuss, and visits from anyone can be overdone. This time, it was not a visit but a day of work, a very different feeling. The painting ended up not taxing me, and I felt warm about the experience. I did a good deed for the old gent, but I think I got the better part of the bargain given the emotional reward of that day, use of old tools and all.

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