Eight years. Two terms for a President. Two thousand nine hundred twenty days.
Come Monday, a day on which most people in our country will be celebrating not having to be at work, it will have been eight years since my father passed away. This Labor Day will mean for me not only laboring through the completion of household projects, but also laboring with the reality I’ve been without my dad for eight long years.
Truth be told, I hadn’t really thought about it much. That is, until this morning.
With a laundry list of projects for this weekend, several of which will require me to hack my way through novice carpentry work, I perused Craigslist earlier in the week for a miter saw. It was one of those situations where I didn’t really NEED the saw, but I desperately WANTED the saw in order to make easier the tasks I had on my list to complete.
As divine intervention would have it, the first listing was for a 10” Craftsman miter saw in excellent condition. Clean, well maintained, and only one owner who was selling it because he had upgraded to a larger and more versatile saw. I called the number in the ad and the older gentleman who answered told me it was still available. We arranged for me to pick it up from his place early on Saturday morning.
I pulled into his property in Zephyrhills and an elderly woman, whom I can only assume is his wife, pointed as she yelled, “He’s in his shed.” I thanked her with a wave and proceeded to the work shed as she had directed. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. I could hear the hum of a motor inside. As I peered through the window, I saw an elderly gentleman vacuuming his work area, his hearing aids nestled tightly in his ears. There was no way he was going to hear me knocking, so I stood and waited patiently as he finished his tidying.
The hum of the vacuum stopped and I knocked again. A rustic voice hollered, “Come on in.” I opened the door, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
I stepped into a portal that took me back in time. Back to my childhood and into the work shed I helped my father build in the summer of 1988. Back to the Saturdays when I was forced to be my father’s assistant, dreading having to sweat and toil as he crafted solutions for everyday problems that arose around the house, all the while not realizing I was actually apprenticing for life as an adult.
Before me stood a man, not very tall but clearly a giant in terms of his knowledge and abilities. His work shed was immaculate. His tools organized and well kept. The shelves and workbenches were the products of his own labor, and his Dickie’s coveralls were the embodiment of every man who has ever influenced what little blue-collar abilities I possess.
For a brief moment in time, I was reunited with my dad. Through the smells of sawdust and engine oil. By the sights of tool boxes and wrench sets. In the sound of a circular saw kick starting into action, as if it were cutting a seam into the past, one through which I could see my father smiling back at me.
The gentleman proceeded to explain all the features of the saw, but I wasn’t really listening. I was lost in how surreal that moment was, my mind adrift in the memories of all those hours shared with my dad, laboring, sweating, creating, and laughing. Scenes from my youth time-lapsed in my head, as the little boy who would drink Kool-Aid under the tree as his father enjoyed a Budweiser grew up to relish the moment when he was finally able to share a cold one with his old man. A parent became a peer, a father became a friend.
I paid the gentleman for the saw, thanked him, and loaded it in my truck. I glanced up at the sun that had just started to break through the fog and haze of the morning, and I smiled as I thanked my dad for continuing to watch over me from up above.
Then I got in my truck and cried all the way home.