My Dad’s Strong Hands
My Dad was from the “old country,” a young WWII refugee from a small village in Ukraine. After settling here in America, he learned English, went to night school and eventually found work as a carpenter. He is not with us anymore, but one of the things I remember about him were his strong hands. One of my earliest memories is climbing all over him, playing, while he sat on the sofa and his hand cradling mine — warm and strong and a toughness borne from all the jobs he worked on from building houses to odd jobs for neighbors and friends and a little side money.
We lived in a row home that eventually would need upgrading and repair, and I helped him with a lot of jobs, from removing the 1940s wallpaper in the house to covering the entire exterior with new aluminum siding, which was the rage at the time. I learned to deal with heights and butterflies on a bouncy ladder on that job, yikes! I earned my first real dollar while sweeping up after him on another job.
One summer we built a small shed that was no ordinary shed. It involved everything that would go into building a regular house except for plumbing. There was roofing, a concrete slab foundation, siding, checking everything for level and square, making jigs, etc. He was precise and fussed over getting things right. Something that rubbed off on me. Caulk that gap? No take it apart and do that trim right. We eventually used that “cabin” for many summer vacations-we had electricity but no running water. AND he planted a small dwarf apple tree orchard next to the “cabin” where I get my love of nature from, too.
Today, I have my own long list of DIY projects to get to, and I tackle them with the very same Disston saws and Stanley chisels and planes that his strong hands touched. His memory sometimes follows me around like a warm blanket in my shop — I just hope that he is pleased, and I am living up to his expectations.