Lessons unlearned

I came home today to be greeted by the sounds of Circular Saws and Hammers. The Contractors are finally finishing work on our Farmer’s Porch that they started in October. On the way into the house I paused to watch in fascination as they measured, cut and nailed with such precision and skill. And, as often happens, I triggered myself. Again.

I can’t hear a saw, a hammer or a drill without thinking about how much I didn’t learn from my father despite the many offers and opportunities. My dad was beyond handy, he could do almost anything with his hands. My earliest memories were of my dad rebuilding our house as we lived in it. He would work from 5 AM to 6 PM or later, slam down a quick dinner and then go to work until at least 10. The saw and hammer were sounds I knew at a very early age.

As I got older Dad tried to enlist my assistance, not because he necessarily needed help but instead to teach me. I was eager to help him but not very interested in learning anything new. This was odd for me because I was an eager student in every other aspect of life. I would pull nails from a pile he created, I could swing a hammer fairly well but offers of learning to measure, use woodworking tools and such were dropped due to lack of interest. Even offers of car maintenance were met with tepid enthusiasm despite our shared love of everything to do with cars.

One incident really stands out in my mind. One evening when I was in my late teens Dad offered to show me how to change the oil on my car. He had it already in the garage, the drive up lifts set up and all. The house phone rang (cell phones weren’t invented yet) and it was my girlfriend (she was goddamn gorgeous if that is relevant at all here) and she was imploring me to come over her house. I told her I was doing something with my Dad that was important and she insisted that it was very important. I had to make a decision and I can honestly say that I made the wrong one. I blew off my Dad.

The look of disappointment on his face was tangible. In my feeble defense, I really thought my girlfriend needed me. That almost helped me pull out of the garage feeling good about myself. Almost.

I arrived at my girlfriend’s house 20 minutes later and knocked on her door. She yelled for me to come up. I went upstairs, asking as I climbed the steps if she was ok, still very curious as to what the emergency was. As I entered her room and saw her lying there buck naked with a rose between her teeth I knew that I had been suckered. It was merely a sexual emergency. I somehow managed to get through it but soon after I began to feel bad.

I apologized profusely to my Dad the next day. He was curt and brief with me. He wasn’t mad, he was disappointed and that was always so much worse. He told me that he had offered to show me something for the last time. It was a pivotal moment in my relationship with my father and one of many regrets that I have from my childhood with regards to my dad. If I could talk to him for only five minutes it would be a priority in the conversation. He was such a hard-working and self-taught man. I admired him so. I take some comfort in many other things that I did learn from him that have made me the person I am but there is still a lot of regret.

Sorry Dad, how’s it go…If I knew now what I didn’t know then?

14 thoughts on “Lessons unlearned”

  1. That’s a pretty hard line for your dad to draw. Kids aren’t always interested in the same things as their parents, but eventually, they’ll realize they need something and then they’re all ears. I remember my own dad trying to teach me to drive a stick shift on a car with a terrible clutch–frustrating for both of us, and I gave up in tears. But he was always willing to try again–bless him:-)

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  2. OMG! HAHAHA. You had to do it! My dad tried to teach me things, but I was useless in the garage… he’d always sigh and say, “go help your mother.” I do know my way around a kitchen! I can do all the things a girl is supposed to know about with her car; check the oil, check the tires, add air if needed… fill the windshield wiper fluid… etc… So, just for fun, I got my bus drivers license in college, air brake and passenger endorsed! Shoot Billy, if we knew THEN what we know NOW? Damn. This is why they say YOUTH is wasted on the YOUNG! You were a kid. You didn’t know any better… but we thought we knew it all in our 20’s didn’t we? God, to have that kind of certainty again…

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      1. Ok, Billy. I know the sentiment of “if only” is nothing to laugh at. We often wish we would’ve done things differently with our parents. We do what we know at that time in our lives, the wisdom comes much later, too late at times.

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