Thank Heaven for Wet Rats

“Like a wet rat”.   That’s the part of the story that he stressed.  “Like a wet rat, that’s what she looked like when I pulled her out of the water.  I didn’t even see her fall it, I just saw her under the surface, and when I pulled her out, she looked like a wet rat”.  

It was years later, sitting on his swing, that he told me the rest of the story of when I was a toddler and had fallen off a dock full of people, into our lake, unnoticed.  “No one has ever scared me as much as you did that day.  I kept you close to me, from then on.”

He taught me.  I can stack wood like a pro.  It was a weekly chore for my brother Rick and I (Mark used to go hide in the basement---rotten kid).  When I was older, I learned to split the wood, with both an ax and a long splitter.   Earning the right to use the chainsaw was a badge of honor.  I can distinctly picture his face, when he finally let me use it.

I can change the oil in my car and properly hammer a nail, all because of him.  My dad built our house.   He told the tale of the old hunter’s cabin that he framed around (so as to avoid extra taxes--it was an addition not a new build that way).  He physically dug the basement below that cabin, by hand with nothing more than a shovel and an ample supply of Old Milwaukee.  

There are pictures of me holding his hand while he put a second story on that same house.   Ever present.  Ever learning.   I can still vividly recall trips to Mr. Seconds to get supplies.   I was his shadow.

He tells me that as a baby my favorite phrase was “I do it” (originally, Me do do) usually resulting from some sibling rivalry competition with my older brother.   It became a refrain throughout my childhood.  I would see my dad laying bricks for our long path to the house, and I’d sidle up and say “I do it”, and he’d let me help.  Or, he would be working on the boat, and hear “I do it”, and I’d get a lesson on engine repair.  He didn’t say much, but, he showed me he loved me, by letting me do it.  

I didn’t truly feel like an adult, until that moment, after he passed, when something broke in my house, and I had to fix it without his advice.  I remember the tears welling up in my eyes, when I reached for my phone and knew I couldn’t call him for advice.   I stood silently for a few moments, until a little voice came to me:  “I do it”.  

Happy birthday, Dad.  


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