It was a bad week. We all have them, kids and adults alike. Everything I touched broke, everything I tried to do became undone, and it seemed the harder I tried the further behind I wound up. Even the end of the workday brought no relief. The traffic was brutal, the never ending construction on Route 5 slowed everything to a crawl for no apparent reason, and to be honest, I was still stressed over my wife’s recent surgery for a spinal tumor. My parents had been helping out a lot with the house and taking care of Trish while I was working, so they were there at the house when I arrived.
Dinner was quiet, tense, and it was all because of the black cloud following me that day. It settled right in with me, bringing the misery and gloom of my bad day to those who had no idea it was coming. I grunted responses to mundane questions. I snapped at my kids, who after all were just being kids. I was such miserable company that if I didn’t have to be around me, I would have left the table. If they were honest with me, I think my whole family shared that particular sentiment. So it was with a gentle nudge my wife reminded me that my father had worked on and apparently fixed my chainsaw, and brought his as well. I had been meaning to do some clean up in the woods behind the house, cutting up some fallen trees from the winter’s storms. I couldn’t think of a better way to work out my hostility than to make short work of the fallen trees.
My father didn’t say anything, but the two of us rose from the table, me still in my work clothes, khakis and a polo shirt. My wife asked if I was going to change first. I shook my head, and went straight to the garage. We grabbed the saws and headed for the grove of downed trees in the back of our property, debris from the hard winter I had been meaning to get cleaned up. The saws roared to life, ripping through the wood with ease. In short, we made big logs small and downed trees into firewood for the backyard summer fire pit. Then, half covered in sweat and wood chips, and smelling of gas and oil fumes, we talked.
It seems there are some things you never outgrow. I don’t think I really needed to cut logs that night, but I needed my Dad. Throughout my adult life, my parents were never more than a phone call away. My wife and I moved from New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio, and always managed to keep in contact with my folks. But that night, at that time, I needed my Dad. He has a quiet strength, born of a confident been-there-done-that approach to almost everything. Maybe it comes from being the oldest boy in a large Irish Catholic family. Maybe it comes from his years in the Marine Corps. It could be from his years of hard work and sacrifice for his family, being the unsung hero to his four sons. Over the years, I have tried to learn from his example, and be the best example I can be for my own son and daughter. Time will tell, I suppose, but Katie tells me so far, so good.