Every so often, when I’m walking alone and the wind is right, I smell the fragrance of my father’s workshop. Sometimes I stop, shut my eyes, and walk into the memory. My father’s body is curved like a bracket beside his table saw; his mouth arranged just so, his small, rough hands carefully maneuvering a board past its blade.
There was a time—a glorious collection years, a bundle of years—when whatever I needed fixed, Dad could fix it. Made? Dad could make it.
Daddy, I drew a guitar. Could you cut it out? Daddy, I need a set of high jumps. Think you think you could make them? Dad, I’d like some wee houses with tiny little chimneys. Can you do it? Dad, I’d love a cupboard here. Would you build it?
Once, newly married, newly nesting, and panting for all things vintage, I traded a friend for a much-abused-but-dripping-character Morris-style rocker—without rockers. “Dad,” I asked him, “think you could make new rockers for this chair?”
My father tucked his tongue just right, looked it over, felt its strong bones, and agreed the chair was worth it. He searched for months for the right kind of oak. While cutting the second rocker, he came to me, his hand wrapped in a bloody towel. “Kathleen,” he said, “can you take me to the doctor’s?”
Dad got the rockers on that chair, but his reattached finger had to heal first. He almost fixed that for good.
Coffee table, high chair, picnic table, cupboard door, car—he fixed them all. I only had to ask. Sometimes I didn’t even have to ask—he offered.
A stray male kitten adopted us one summer when Dad was about seventy-five. When I complained about the vet’s cost to neuter the cat, he offered to fix it too. “We used to do that all the time, back on the farm,” he said. Had he lived closer, I may have let him. Instead he gave me instructions: “Stick it upside down in a pair of boots. Find your sharpest knife, and just cut the ding dongs off.”
If it could be made of wood, Dad could make it. If it could be broken, he could fix it. And if it could be fixed once, it could be fixed twice.
But Mr. Fix-it Neufeld didn’t stop with fixing things. He tried to fix neighbours, churches, relationships, kids, and grandkids. And sometimes, by God and prayer, he did. He even fixed my heart, sometimes, his ears his only tool. Once, after he’d picked me up from a friend’s home, he sat in the car for a very long time while I finished my distraught ramblings over pubescent hurts.
In my memory, his tears fell as his prayers rose.
Some people’s dominant trait is assertiveness or compassion, intelligence or wit. Dad’s was cheerful fix-ituitiveness.
I didn’t inherit it. But into eternity, I’ll be blessed by it.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. You’ve always looked a lot like God to me.