Four days ago, I almost cried.
I suppose you could say the stress of buying and renovating a house has its toll on a person’s emotions, but I really don’t want to use that as an excuse.
However, I can’t explain how many frustrations come along with being…
…a plumber and trying to install a new kitchen faucet. Found out, after I’d disconnected all the water lines and jammed my fingers, that it was the wrong faucet for the sink.
…a painter. I sanded down the kitchen cabinets and started the mundane task of painting all the doors. And now that I’m basically done, I discovered the paint, if bumped or scratched, peels off the cabinet face fronts like a monkey peeling a banana.
… an electrician. The one that almost made me cry. Crouched on top of the bathroom counter, trying not to bump against fresh paint, I held the new vanity light against the wall.
“Just flip the light switch down so you won’t electrocute yourself, reconnect the wires to the matching colors, and screw it to the wall with the bracket in the box,” my dad had said when I asked him if he’d hang the light for me. “You gotta learn to do these kind of things.”
Being the guy who is tempted to flip the breaker before plugging in the coffee grinder, I found it highly exhilarating to touch the bare wires, knowing that the breaker box below was still juicing up all the wires around me.
I read the instructions and started installing, my arms growing tired from holding the light in place.
And I did it wrong. Over and over again.
Then one time, I did everything right, and it still didn’t work.
On the fifth time, I bit my lip and tried not to cry.
“Dad,” I yelled, trying to keep the waver from my voice, “I think we need to hire an electrician.”
My dad lowered his drill and ambled across the kitchen to the bathroom.
“You’re doing it all wrong,” he said.
“Surely not all wrong,” I replied. “I read the instructions. And prayed.”
“Oh, the instructions don’t tell you how to do it.” He untwisted a wire or two, held the bracket in place, and screwed it all together.
“Uh, dad, we’d like it on the wall.”
“I know, I’m putting it all together down here so I don’t have to hold it in place and try to thread nuts onto these bolts.” He glanced down again, readjusted the bracket some more and continued, “My arms always get awfully tired.”
“Oh, that woulda been smart,” I said as I rubbed my tiny biceps.
“After you put two or three of these together, you learn a few tricks,” he replied. “Except every light is a little different, so you are always relearning a few things.”
This time, both of us crouched on either side of the bathroom sink, we held the light in place and fastened it down.
When I flipped the switch and the light brightened the room, I nearly wept.
My dad, having returned to the kitchen, started drilling again.
“Oh no….” I heard him mutter; the louder, “Duane, my drill nicked these cabinets and I tore some paint off.”
“I’ll touch it up after you’re done,” I replied, too tired to really care at that moment.
They say being a good dad is mostly just about showing up.
And as a son of a dad who has always showed up, I can’t agree more.
But over the last five years, as I watch the gray hair appear on my dad’s head, I wonder if I’ll have learned enough to continue, when he isn’t on this earth to show up anymore.
Or if I’ll have learned enough to be a good father someday to a son of my own.
I smile then.
And I can’t wait until I get to watch Duane Scott Jr. try hanging his first light fixture.
(Duane Scott writes powerful from his site here. Thank you, friend, for sharing this tender moment with your father.)