6: Tools for Life

6: Tools for Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Tools for Life

A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad.

~John Andrew Holmes

It was December when my father had to live the moment every dad dreads — times two. I, with my bachelor’s degree in hand, was officially and permanently leaving the nest for Connecticut. My sister, clutching her master’s degree, was heading off to New Jersey to start her new life.

And to make matters even worse, there was a long-time boyfriend waiting for each of us. Not only was my father losing both of his girls at once, he was losing them to other men. He had us hostage for the holidays, but after that, all bets were off. The clock was ticking.

So that’s the year he gave my sister and me the best presents we ever received.

A pony? No, I’d given up on that dream years ago when he bought me a stuffed horse instead. A car? Nope, my father insisted the old Buick he’d procured from our elderly neighbor was “a great car!”

Sitting underneath the tree on Christmas morning were two identical gifts my brother, muscles straining, pushed in front of his sisters. Large, slightly lumpy, and heavy enough to make me question what I’d do with a box of rocks.

“This is from your father,” my mother said, eager to re-distribute the credit. With slightly nervous glances cast each other’s way (my father does not do his own shopping), my sister and I tore open the paper to reveal . . . toolboxes.

Just what every little-girl-at-heart wants for Christmas.

“Open it, open it!” our very own Santa announced gleefully, clapping his hands.

So we did.

Hammers. Wrenches. Nails. Duct tape. Tire gauge. Tape measure. Screws.

The fun just kept coming, and he couldn’t have looked prouder.

We couldn’t have been more confused.

Like your average girls, we dutifully ooh-ed and ah-ed over our loot and kept our eyes glued to the clearly denoted GAP box under the tree.

“He did that all by himself, you know,” Mom confided to us later when all of the crumpled wrapping paper had found a home on the floor and presents lay scattered about. “It took him hours to pick all of that out.”

Suddenly, it was clear — tightly packed into those cumbersome, clunky toolboxes were all of a father’s lessons and love. He may have been passing us on to other men, but his girls were going to be able to take care of themselves — and always remember who it was in their lives that first built a foundation and always picked up the pieces and hammered them back together.

Yes, my father gave me a tire gauge for Christmas, along with the forethought to avoid problems before they happen.

A spare key holder — and the knowledge that everybody’s human and forgets their keys sometimes.

A hammer — and the strength to know that girls can swing them, too.

Nails — and countless memories to hang on the walls.

A toolbox — and all of the love and support to get through the good and the bad in life. No matter what’s bent out of shape or broken.

Thanks, Dad. For all of the tools you’ve given me.

~Caitlin Q. Bailey

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