What your dad means when he asks you if you’re happy

I decided I should build some benches for the back yard one spring when I was feeling like the antidote to winter blues was a little practical creativity. I consulted my Backyard Projects book and found a nice solid, straightforward looking design then trundled off to the hardware store where they helped me choose the wood and made sure I had enough.

Did I mention that I had never built anything besides a driftwood fort before this?

My dad built his own fishing boat because he had decided that salmon fishing paid more than milking cows, so I figured I should be able to construct some simple benches. Besides, Dad was the back-up plan for those times when I got stuck.

We went out to the shop and prepared our work space. Now, I suppose I should have thought about the fact that it might be difficult for a carpenter with seventy years of experience to take the backseat while I fumbled my way through my first project but I didn’t. Instead, I pictured him sitting back calmly directing me though the harder parts.

It was all hard, though.

First I gave up trying to cut the boards; he was much faster and safer than I was. Then I handed over the measuring part. Eventually, I let him do it all while I fetched and carried and held things. Occasionally I drilled in some screws.

We worked comfortably together, chatting sporadically but mostly we were silent. Our years of fishing together or hoeing turnips floated through my mind. I remembered sitting in the barn with him while he milked the cows and I entertained the chickens. At times, my mind would also dwell on whatever was stressing me out at work or in my personal life.

While I was turning over a particularly troubling scenario, Dad directed me to grab onto two boards and hold them still while he prepared to drill them. “Make sure they are lined up properly,” he said.
I followed his instructions then drifted back to my rumination.

“So, are you happy?” he queried.

I swallowed.

“How much should I reveal?” I wondered. We never really spoke too much of emotional issues but here we were all nice and cosy, working together and I thought I would open up a bit.

I was just about to launch into the deep of things when he asked, “Well, are you all lined up there? Is it straight?”

I laughed and said, “Yep. I’m happy.”

We built four benches over two days. This really did make me happy.

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