A Writer’s Book of Days – 17 June 2016

These Are the Stories of My Father

Dad always wanted to work on houses. He went to school for architecture and studied it for years. But he never finished.

Instead, he went into the ministry. Spent decades caring for the immortal souls and moral fiber of children, teens, and adults. But the housing bug never quit him.

He and mom have bought and rented houses for as long as I can remember. Old houses, cheap houses, houses in disrepair. Houses that needed some love. And, over time, they gave those houses that love.

My siblings and I would help out from time to time. I have memories of pulling nails and tearing up carpet from when I was eight years old or so. The wham-wham of a hammer and the taste of dust filling the air.

Over the years, I’ve found myself working for my parents in one capacity or another on multiple occasions. Summer breaks from school. Weeks or months between other jobs. Even on a random day off to pick up some extra spending money or to supplement other part-time work.

I’d like to say this experience has taught me a thing or two about fixing houses, but I’m still pretty lost when it comes to anything more complicated than putting in a new floor.

Dad’s always been more of a wiz at home improvement, though. To date, he’s partitioned our basement, laid down hardwood on the main floor, build in-wall shelving in the sitting room, renovated the kitchen, and laid down new hardwood on the main floor.

And that’s just the stuff he’s done at home.

To add in all the projects he has at the rental property…well, I couldn’t remember it all even if I tried.

(A part of me wonders right now if we only watched Tim the Tool Man Taylor because of dad’s passion for real-life home improvement. I don’t recall any of us being huge weekday tv junkies growing up.)

As dad looks forward to retirement in the somewhat-near future, he’s ramping up his activity with the rental homes. Watching him do so, a part of me wonders if he feels more at home (ha-ha) doing this than he ever did working with the church. After all, this is what he presumably had a passion for as a young man, and now he turns to it more professionally at the end of his working life.

Looking back, does he wish he had put more time and effort into building this career than the one he paid the bills with?

It’s a terrible thing to think, because he did good work in the church, and I know he cared deeply for those he taught. Still cares, to be honest.

But if it were me, and I had invested the adult decades of my life in one career, only to have one similar to my original passion waiting for me as I neared retirement, I would have some serious thoughts of regret floating beneath the surface of my mind.

Hell, as a young man I have serious regrets floating beneath the surface of my mind. That’s probably just the way I am. And in time, I expect I’ll come to appreciate the choices I’ve made in life just as my father has.

But for now, the delayed creative career path frightens me. And while I may never fix houses as well as dad, I hope I can discipline myself to contribute to the world in my own way as well as he has in his.

I love you, dad. And I’m proud of you.

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