I love you Dad for so many reasons, but mostly because you took me seriously. I wasn’t a girlie girl, I was a tomboy, and you let me be that, and you enjoyed it too. From the moment we moved to Vermont I was always down in your tool-shed alongside you. So you taught me- how to use tools, clean them, and put them away.
You showed me how to make a box. We had to measure up, with a ruler. I think that was the only time I saw you measure with anything other than your hands and a pencil! I had to saw the wood, make it all fit, glue it and nail it. You said if I could make a box I could make anything. Then you gave me scrap wood to extend a tree house in the paddock next door. I made it awesome and spent many times there, bombing Dean and his mates with pinecones.
Because of you I know how to hang wallpaper and that it only sticks of you swear at it and stomp on it. I read a famous five on my bed as you hung the wattle-flower wallpaper. I know you hung it the right way round, despite the ongoing tease from us all that it was upside down. You did good, Dad, and the swearing kept it firmly stuck for years.
You taught me how to change a car tire, clean battery points, top up my oil and water, and we even re-sprayed my first car together, a hideous shade of safety yellow so everyone could see me and my Volvo coming.
One night outside KATEES nightclub Jenny Aitken and I changed a tire while drunken guys catcalled. I felt so proud. Thanks for that Dad.
When I was little and asked for a toolkit for Christmas, you didn’t laugh, or encourage me to get a doll. Somehow you found one- a miniature set in a wooden carry box. And they were real tools, with weight and purpose and red handles- a hammer, saw, screwdriver and more, all to fit my small hand.
I used some of the nails from it to hammer extra planks onto my cubby walls. The planks turned out to be walnut, and destined for the kitchen as shelves. You were so angry when you realized what I’d done. But you also praised my straight nailing!
Other parts of being your tomboy girl were riding the old postie motorbike around the paddock, feeding apples to the horses next door, and climbing. I was about nine when I climbed to the top of the pine tree in our yard. Then I looked down and freaked! And yelled out a VERY bad swear word little girls shouldn’t say. You didn’t rescue me. You came partway up and talked me down. I could feel proud, even as I got a bum-smack for the swearing.
Thanks Dad, for teaching me to shake hands properly. You taught Dean and me that your handshake is your word, so when you give it you must see the thing through and do it right. Because you hated ‘gonna-do-ers’ I grew up believing in doing, in taking action on dreams to make them real. It’s a good life lesson, thanks Dad.
Some other life lessons I got from you Dad: the world is not straight, so measure it by eye and hand. Cracks will always come back. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fix them each time they do. Be useful. Don’t wallow. When you feel blue go for a drive out into the country, or find something to fix. Climb the tree, don’t be scared. Someone will be there to talk you back down.
Dad, all these things you left me with help me feel sound, and useful, and like I’m meant to be here, and that’s such a lovely thing you gave to me. You used to thrown me in the air until the sky touched my head, and you made me feel so loved.
I need to give you something back and so it’s this. You are in the warmth. There are droplets drying from your skin because you have just swum. The heat is rising, and the sun is straight above you. You have no work to do, nothing to fix. You are drifting in an out of a dream, sitting in your chair, basking like a lizard in the sun.