By Gary Lloyd
I recently experienced an epiphany, and it hit me harder than an Estwing hammer on a common nail.
I’ll get to the point, but please allow me a few paragraphs to procrastinate, to set the scene. I have never been Mr. Fix-It, the guy who shimmies on his back across rough, hot concrete to change his own 10W-30 in July, or who rips out the upstairs carpet and nails down oak flooring in a herringbone pattern in October. Instead, I make the trip to my local auto repair shop for tune-ups and pay a flooring company thousands of dollars to finish that October project a couple days before Black Friday.
This has almost always bothered me. It is human nature to compare ourselves to others, and I’m certainly no different. I have had friends that have swapped out engines in SUVs and zero-turn lawnmowers, who have framed and bricked their own homes. Many of the folks I know today spend 40 hours a week just like me – at a desk, staring into a computer screen. The difference, however, is while they complete orders for the delivery of large liquid gas tanks and make sales for water-blasting systems, I am sitting here, blasting away dangling participles.
They spend their free time hauling lumber home for new backyard decks and farmhouse tables, and I’m still here, using an online thesaurus like it’s a sanding block on that not-yet-Minwaxed farmhouse table. Their nails are made of hard steel and copper. Mine are made of themes and descriptive ledes. Bluntly, it’s kind of emasculating.
Lord knows I’ve tried. At our last house, which included a workshop, I followed step-by-step instructions and constructed a four-feet-wide wooden bench, which ended up with splintered legs because I used thick construction screws instead of trim head screws. Oops.
I used old cedar from a long-forgotten bookshelf to make a three-tiered shelf of sorts, the tiers connected by silver galvanized pipes. It holds my printer, printer paper and not much else in the back corner of my upstairs office, where no one, not even the dogs, will see it.
The best thing I ever made, a rustic side table for our living room, took me an entire weekend to complete. I cut through seven different pieces of thick lumber with a Dewalt miter saw, spun dozens of trim head screws through them, sanded until my fingers ached, and spread enough Minwax English Chestnut stain to fill the English Channel. That thing was stickier than maple syrup.
I promised a point, and here it is. Over the last year, my toddler son’s favorite thing to say to me is “Dada, fix it!” My notable fixes have included unfolding a birthday gift bag, re-attaching the ramp onto a Fisher-Price Noah’s ark, repositioning a couch pillow a million times, and reconnecting the straw inside his bottle of milk.
None of this, not one lion loaded into the ark or one pillow moved five inches to the left, really matters, right? I mean, these moments don’t result in a new bench, ugly printer shelf or table beside the couch. They just come and go, again and again and again.
Maybe, just maybe, they mean everything.
Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.