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On Becoming Your Parents

Growing up, my pop was a fantastic handyman around the house. Sure, he was a brilliant surgeon and doctor, but that never kept him from the get-yer-hands-dirty kind of work. He’d hang drywall, or build fences, or swap out water heaters, or change tires, or re-roof a house…or any honest bit of work he could get his hands on. And I always loved and admired him for that.

But the amazing thing was that, for a brilliant guy, his toolbox — heck, his whole dang garage — was a mess. You could never find anything in there. And as an anal-retentive kid, it drove me nuts. “Dad,” I’d ask, “do we have a wood chisel I can use?”

“Oh yeah, I have a whole set of chisels. They’re out in the garage.”

Which, of course was a futile statement. You could look, if you chose, but those chisels were lost to the world…by the mere fact that they were in that garage. Archaelogists, way in the future, would find them with delight underneath six boxes of National Geographics, various unused gate hinges, and some Christmas decorations.

Growing up, I always told myself that my garage would be different. My garage would have those hole-peg thingies where all the tools had little white outlines. My garage would let you find the right socket wrench at a glance.

But somewhere along the way, my plans didn’t work out.

Yesterday, as I was building a deck, I realized that my tools had jumbled together. They had taken on the appearance of installation art: stacked in a way to represent man’s inhumanity to man…I guess? It was a beautiful artistic expression, but it was also an absolute mess, and I couldn’t find a dang thing.

Took me thirty minutes to even find my wood chisels.

And that’s when I realized it: the Harry Chapin song “Cats in the Cradle” had come true: my garage had become my father’s garage. My stack of tools had become my dad’s.

And an even bigger realization hit me: I am gonna drive my sons absolutely nuts.

…And I got the biggest, dopiest grin on my face at that. I can’t wait to tell them to go look in the garage. The torch shall be passed, pop!