Friday, April 20, 2012

Dad's Garage (reprise)

I went to the thrift store yesterday and noticed a sign on the front door stating that all coffee cups were half off, so I thought I'd take a look.  And there, up front and in the center was a Corelle coffe cup exactly like the one my Dad used every day.  Yesterday was his birthday and I like to think that he put it there to acknowledge that I'd been thinking about him all day.  And so, in honor of my father's birthday I'd like to re-post an essay I wrote about him a little over a year ago.  It was fun to rummage through the albums to find a few different pictures.  I didn't realize how much I would feel blessed by taking this time to honor him.  Happy Birthday, Dad!

A few weeks ago, my friend’s father passed away while she and her mother were looking through the many and varied items in his garage.  He had been lingering in his body for several days and they had been keeping watch over him.  Finally, to get a bit of reprieve they went out to the garage to start sorting through a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff. I felt that it was fitting that he would choose this moment to leave, knowing they were looking at the odd assortment of items he had chosen to keep over the years.  I imagined that he couldn’t quite hear their comments from his bed, so thought, “Well, this might be as good a time as any to sever all ties to this body and drift over to the garage for one last look and listen.” 
As I think of this scene, I remember my father’s garage in all its messy, yet somehow organized glory.  Oh my goodness, I loved that garage almost as much as I adored my father.  In the garage I could get to know my true, authentic father.  He didn’t really have a lot of say in the decoration of the house.  He put up with the pink bedroom and the fuzzy toilet seat covers and the bric-a-brac in the china cabinet without saying a word. 

Our dog Puddles and Dad in the Nagahyde recliner
But, in his garage, where he reigned supreme there was none of my mother’s input and I could get a glimpse of the real man that was my father.  I never dared to go out there when he wasn’t there.  But, when he was working at his metal lathe or fighting with some engine overhaul I could spend as much time as I liked as long as I didn’t make too much noise.  He’d often forget I was even there.  I would gaze in wonder at decades of accumulation stuck between the stud walls, hanging on nails from the ceiling and tucked into shelves and cupboards he had made.  Where had this come from and how had he gotten it all in here?  I knew that he built the garage shortly before I was born, so all of this was placed purposefully by him, yet it looked like three lifetimes’ accumulation.  Of course there was the usual assortment of tools for every purpose.  My dad could do or fix anything, so a man must have a wide variety of tools.  But, in addition to the usual sledge hammers, pitch forks and chisels were other mystery tools that he had fabricated for specific purposes.  There was the special rake for removing leaves from the gutters and another one for removing leaves from the ditch.  There were rolls and rolls of tape for every purpose and an entire drawer devoted to gloves. 

One time he was putting a new starter on my International Scout.  A trailer had rolled over his foot a week or so before so he was on crutches and I was designated to retrieve the tools as he needed them.  He was able to tell me, “I need the 11/16” socket that is in the first bank of drawers, third drawer down, upper left-hand corner, fourth socket from the front of the drawer.”  I would find the drawer filled with perhaps two hundred items, but he was never wrong as to the needed item’s location.  Almost all of these tools were engraved with his name.  I still am amazed when I think of man who valued his belongings so much that they all bore his name and that he knew where every single item was located. 
Dad had a safari hat hanging from a hook above one window in the garage.  I always wondered where it came from and when he had worn it.  I guess I could have asked, but then if the answer had been mundane I would have been very disappointed.  I preferred to think that in a past life, way before I was born he had traveled to Africa on safari to stalk lions and zebras.  He was a quiet man, not given to talking about the past, so you never knew.  I placed the hat in the same category as the blue fishing pole that was so stout you could have caught a hundred pound fish with it.  We lived near mountain lakes and I had been fishing with my father any number of times.  But, that pole was not for the lake trout he usually caught.  No, that thing was from a far greater adventure.  Perhaps marlin fishing off the coast of Florida from a huge yacht before he even knew my mother.  My dad, the man of mystery.

Joe, Dad, Aubrey and Casey about 1983
He loved Will Rogers’ folksy style and had a framed picture of him hanging above his workbench. The caption at the bottom read “Beloved American”.   That was my dad.  He worked hard, loved his country, always voted, watched the news every night, enjoyed the outdoors, raised a huge family and at the end of the day was simply a humble, loving man who was doing the best he could.

He’s been gone from this life for many years now, but lingers with me often.  It is usually when I am using his yellow-handled hacksaw engraved with his name, or when I am religiously watching the nightly news or when I’m fixing some broken down item that I found at the dump.  I sometimes catch him smiling down at me through Will Rogers’ eyes as I get a glimpse of the framed picture that now hangs in my messy, yet somehow organized garage.  Dad, I’ll always miss you, but am comforted that your spirit is within me every day that I live. 
How about we go on a safari?  Just you and me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

North Fork Magic

What an enchanting stay we had last weekend at a Forest Service cabin close to the Canadian border!  Good friends had invited us to join them a few weeks ago when they rented the Schnaus Cabin, but we already had plans.  It was such a good idea however, that I booked it for the next available weekend.  And we were so grateful for the idea.  This lovely cabin is at the end of a 43 mile very bumpy gravel road purposely designed to make travelers slow down and take in the scenery.  Our bums were massaged by the rutted road (mine actually tingled when we got out of the truck…an altogether interesting, though not unpleasant sensation).  Our journey took us past bubbling waterfalls, through dense forests and also through stands of ghostly tree trunks resulting from the Roberts fire a few years ago.  We stopped to stare in awe at a herd of forty-two elk.

Stunning scenery and the North Fork road caused us to quiet our minds and remember yet again our good fortune in living in this inspiring country. 

 So, by the time we reached the cabin we were pretty mellow and our springs had un-wound enough to appreciate the absence of noise…well, save for the wind hushing the pine trees and the occasional call of a bird. 

Arm in arm we stood on the front porch to take in the grand views of Glacier National Park. 


After a dinner of fish and shrimp cooked on the propane range I settled by the wood stove with a glass of red wine to read by the light of the propane lamps. 

Log books are provided for guests to journal in and as I read the entries I knew that this “Schnaus Haus” had worked its magic on many others who came before. 

Here are a few of their ponderings:

No cell service, no TV, no WiFi.  HEAVEN!!!
The flutes were used to lure the mountains out of their clouds – a tip for you if you’d like to see the Glacier views.
Lovely stillness.
Made a cozy fire and enjoyed a bottle of wine.
We ate ~ we drank ~ we sang ~ we played ~ we laughed ~ we drank some more.
Falling stars and yellow gold trees…the North Fork dazzles once again.
Took a little hike yesterday looking for trolls and faeries.
Blessings are upon us.

And then there was this musing written in tiny, widely spaced print. I wonder what a handwriting analyst would make of this?
I wonder about her.  If she’s nervous.  If she’s packed or packing.  What she’s bringing.  What she’s told her friends.  “I’m going to Montana to see an old friend.”  “I’m going to Montana to see an acquaintance.”  “I’m going to Montana to see a guy I went to high school with that I haven’t seen in five years.  I once told him I had a crush on him.”  She flies into Kalispell tomorrow for five days…wish me luck… 
I felt the presence of those folks who in finding a bit of their souls here, also left a bit of their souls for me to find. 
Contemplation.  Contentment.  Restful, blissful quiet. 

Recommendation:  let the Schnaus cabin work its magic on you.