Like many a dad, my father was handy. He could fix things. As a farmer and father of twelve children, nine of them boys, it was a necessary skill. He fixed tractors, cars, windows, electrical problems, washing machines, broken chairs, you name it — he fixed it. But over the years one of the main things he fixed was a plethora of broken chairs, broken by boys leaning back on them, plopping on them and probably throwing them at each other. I don’t recall my parents ever having a full set of matching table chairs at anytime when we were living at home, and probably not for a long time after we were all gone.
No matter how old my father got he still continued to fix things around the farm. He had given up farming in the late 60’s and taken a county assessor job in town so most of his repair work was contained to lawn mowers, gardening gadgets, cars, farm building maintenance and odd jobs for my mom in the house. My dad always kept things in ship-shape order and was very efficient and often said, “Efficiency, is just smart laziness.”
One winter after he had retired my mom asked him to fix yet one more kitchen table chair. A rung on the back of the chair had come loose and it had become a bit risky to sit on. Because the kitchen table in our house had always been the center of our family life at the farm and it hosted hours of book reading, coffee klatches with neighbors, meals with loved ones, and aided in solving all of the world problems, it was a priority for my mom to get fixed. She had people to feed and friends to entertain!
As I mentioned above my dad was normally very efficient and swift to finish a project, unless he was reading a book. And there was the rub –
– he was in the middle of a good book and mom wanted that chair fixed. This meant he needed to get it fixed fast and get back to his book — a little glue and it would be good as new.
So probably a little begrudgingly Dad found his wood glue to fix the chair, slid mom’s sweater vest that was draped on the chair out of the way and completed his task — the chair was glued, clamped, drying and he was back with his nose in his book.
Several weeks later….
That winter I was taking a business finance night course at a local college and my dad had become my tutor. The teacher of the course had never taught and the whole class was struggling. I always knew my dad was smart and great at math, his position as county assessor required those skills, but I really appreciated his skill in teaching me how amortization, compound interest and the expected return rate worked. It blew me away when he pulled out of his wallet a handwritten cheat sheet of all of the formulas we were using in the class.
A test was coming up and I needed my dad to help me better understand the material so I had driven up for an afternoon tutoring session. I had stayed for supper after our session to get some time with my mom. We had a great chat and near the end of the meal, my mom look at me and with a little shudder said, ” I’m getting a little chilly, could you hand me my sweater?”
I leaned over to grab the sweater vest on the chair near me. I gingerly grabbed the sweater, but something seemed twisted and it didn’t immediately come off.
So being more deliberate, I worked at unraveling the puzzle that the sweater had become. I was bewildered why I couldn’t get it off the chair.
Then I saw the problem and as I looked up, my parents were in hysterics — laughing it up. They were highly entertained watching me struggle to get that sweater off the chair. In my dad’s haste to repair the chair, the rung had somehow gotten threaded through the arm of hole of the sweater vest and they were now permanently attached!
I was the entertainment for the evening! My devious parents had been setting up unwitting guests all winter long for their own amusement, including the priest who they invited to dinner — I am convinced he was invited just to watch him try to get that sweater off that chair!
Dad passed away the next spring and when I told this story at his wake I was stunned at the number of people who chipped into the story with their experience and my parent’s sweater caper!