When Matthew was little, he got into the show (and toys from) Bob the Builder. Pretty quickly, he realized the connection between Bob the Builder and ‘D-dad.’ The boys and my mom would occasionally even refer to my dad with this nickname. The name fit.
My dad was such a project man. He was the ultimate do-er. He was a DIY-er before the “Do It Yourself” revolution. He would’ve laughed in the face of Pinterest and some of the silly ‘DIY’ projects and ideas that are now all the rage. He never hired a professional unless he absolutely had to. He built a second story on one of their first homes. He was a landscape architect, a plumber, a painter, an electrician, a carpenter, a roofer, a tile mosaic artist. He taught himself how to do everything. And he was very successful at it.
As my brother Timothy said, “Dad flipped houses before flipping houses was a thing.”
Our home from 1985-2000, was a beautiful lakefront cape cod, two storey on half an acre. My parents bought it for a song as it was the epitome of a “fixer upper” – vines growing in through the windows, nasty dirty ceilings, floors and walls, a rotting boat dock and overgrown yard and flower beds.
Much of my weekends and summers as a kid were spent in the ‘torture’ of helping with projects. One summer, my brother Chris and I moved wheelbarrow loads and loads of dirt down the steep hill next to the house. The plan was to terrace the steep backyard. I helped mix cement and tile the patio at the age of 9 or 10. (I think about having my own kids do something like this now and can already hear the whining about the injustice of it all. Spoiled children). I once pretended to pray the Rosary to get out of doing yard work. I think it worked once and the next time I attempted this same trick, Dad said something about, “You can say a Hail Mary for each dandelion you pull.”
I don’t remember a Saturday that wasn’t spent – at least some of it – helping with some chores while dad worked on a home improvement project.
Condo living wasn’t for dad. Sure, he still did things – remodeling kitchens and bathrooms on his own – but the lack of yard work was frustrating to him.
When mom and dad first visited the retirement community where she will be moving next month, she was smitten. She’s wanted to move there for a few years now. Dad apparently told her, “If you’re moving there, you’re moving alone.” Touché. Dad would’ve been bored out of his mind. We even joked that if dad moved into a place like that, he would’ve snuck around the beautiful, manicured grounds digging holes just to have something to do.
Mom shouldn’t have been that surprised when dad went for a walk in their vacation, beach, weekend spot and upon returning announced that he’d found a new “project.” The 1 acre, waterfront fixer upper had “Bob the Builder” written all over it. And it was his project and his pride and joy for two years. We’re just a little ticked – but not that surprised – that he ‘checked out’ before completing all the projects he’d started there.
Mike and I have been toying with the idea of taking out our mud-pit, drainage-challenged side yard and putting in a gravel and/or tile patio for a little grilling area. I’ve been eying the pieces and scraps of tile and leftover kitchen granite that dad had stacked in their garage. I’ll be bringing it home in the next couple of weeks. He even had a couple of old cabinets that I might be able to “DIY” – up for the outdoor kitchen project. Perhaps we’ll get a plaque and call it the “Bob the Builder Memorial Outdoor Kitchen.”
Two summers ago, Dad and I worked together staining our deck here. Last Spring, Dad announced that we would be having a ‘work party’ to clean up some of the ravine in the back. Oh really? I thought (not pumped about tackling the project). But sure enough, he showed up and always with his ‘bag.’ Sometimes, when he’d be helping us with a project (like when he and Mike ‘finished’ the unfinished laundry room at our old house or when he was helping us get through the ‘inspection’ list for selling the house), he would bring his bag and just store it in the garage or bathroom closet. He left his work shoes and clothes and some of his tools here because he knew he’d be back to work.
Well, a few days ago, I couldn’t help but smile as I brought my ‘bag’ to their Bellevue condo. With mom selling it, I knew there were a few projects to do that I’d be able to help with. I brought some of my painting supplies, a couple of my preferred tools and my crappy paint-stained work clothes. I stuck my bag on the floor of dad’s bathroom closet.
Dad would be proud.