In 1979, we moved from our small house in downtown Asheboro to our new home in the country, a two-story Cape Cod on a hill. It had a sunken den
In 1979, we moved from our small house in downtown Asheboro to our new home in the country, a two-story Cape Cod on a hill. It had a sunken den with wide wooden beams overhead, a wood-burning fireplace, and a two-car garage.
My dad never intended to park any cars in that garage and instead turned it into a workshop, something he’d wanted his whole life. He built a woodworking table to fit the space and set up sawhorses in the corners. Over the years, he outfitted his shop well, accumulating a band saw, a circular saw, a jigsaw, a scroll saw. He hung clamps and handsaws from pegs and balanced large sheets of lumber against the walls. He filled three metal toolboxes with screwdrivers and hammers and made weekly runs to Lowe’s for yet another tool, another screw, another nail, more sandpaper. Nearly every weekend, my dad was in that garage, sawing and hammering, tinkering and puttering. Poring over plans that he found in woodworking magazines.
You never saw a man more satisfied than my dad when he dusted wood shavings from his pants and stamped his shoes on the mat before going into the house, leaving behind residual proof of accomplishment, of projects completed.
Back then, my parents embraced the early-American folk art that was so popular at the time — needlepoint samplers, Shaker stacking boxes — and my dad made wooden miniatures and cutouts reflective of that style. He created alphabet letters and blocks, wooden birds and birdhouses. He made rustic stools and benches, picture frames and chalkboards. Whirligigs with wooden propellers that twirled in the wind. Nothing fancy, but everything was solid. Built to last.
When you’re young, you don’t think about traits like permanence and endurance. You assume that what’s here now — the red pickup in the driveway, the pie safe in the kitchen — will always be here.
One winter evening, my dad came home from work to tell my mom and me that his doctor was sending him to the hospital for emergency openheart surgery. One of his heart valves, weakened by the rheumatic fever he’d had as a boy, was finally giving out. Not everything, it seems, is built to last.
He came home with a long, vertical scar in the middle of his chest and instructions for a two-month recuperation. If you’ve known someone who’s had heart surgery, you know they can’t lift heavy objects or drive a car. Which meant that, on Valentine’s Day, my dad couldn’t get to the store to buy my mother a card, a tradition they’d not missed since the day they married.
That day, though, my dad made his way to the garage. He moved slowly, carefully, and picked up the lightest piece of plywood he had. He cut out a long, vertical heart and painted it red. With chalk, he drew a smiling stick figure with arms wide open. Happy Valentine, he wrote. I love you this much.
My mom still has the heart, my dad’s handwriting still intact. It’s lasted for a long time.
I think it’ll last forever.
Editor in Chief