Following Mom’s death, Dad moved his barn hobbies into the house. The multi-purpose kitchen table served as his new workbench. He covered the table with newspaper and set up his belt sander, saws, drills, screwdrivers, hammer, nails, glue, pliers, wrenches, hacksaw, level, tape measure, miter saw, and wood clamps that doubled as clothespins.
As adult children, we found this puzzling because we remember when everything made Dad cough. For years, he started the day coughing until he turned light red, red, beet red, light blue, dark blue and purple. We were convinced he was strangling. Each time, the episode ended with a combination of coughs, snorts and sneezes.
To his credit, Dad wore a face mask to reduce the effects of sawdust in the air, but even that baffled us. We don’t know how often he replaced the mask. Did he use the same one for a year? Two years? Forever?
For coffee breaks and meals, he spread a fresh, clean page of the Chronicle Herald over the sawdust and tools.
Dad spent his time building fully-equipped miniature dories, lobster traps, lobster crates and buoys and painted or varnished them. He did this all of this in a room with no ventilation. As well, he used copious amounts of white-out. Thick dust covered every surface, but Dad seemed totally oblivious to it, but why? We were about to find out.
Dad had cataracts and didn’t know it until his optometrist, Dr. Robichaud, who was at least as old as Dad, made him aware. Dad met with a cataract specialist and scheduled a date for surgery.
I thought to myself smugly, “Woohoo, at last, Dad will see how much dirt and sawdust is everywhere.”
The cataract surgery was a resounding success and Dad, like most cataract patients, realized he hadn’t seen certain shades of colours for years. I was 100% certain Dad would call to tell me he had cleaned up the house. Sure enough, during the course of one of our phone calls, he started to talk about how much better he could see.
“Aha,” I thought to myself, “here it comes.” The admission I had been waiting for.
Dad began, “You know, Meldie, it’s a funny thing. I used to think everything looked gray and dingy in the old house. I’m not the kind of housekeeper your mother was.”
He was getting closer all the time, but, alas, with one sentence he shattered my hopes.
“You know,” he chuckled, “… ever since I got these new eyes, everything sparkles. The old place doesn’t look half as bad as I thought.”
My heart fell even lower when he added, “Oh, remember that outlandish vacuum cleaner thing you bought me?” Of course I remembered.
“It hasn’t been out of the box since you used it last year.”
“That’s great, Dad. I’m so happy for you,” I lied. For a moment, I considered drinking poison. Obviously, there was something seriously wrong with my eyes. Hey, maybe I was the one with cataracts.
This much I know for sure. Dad lived to the ripe old age of 91, sawdust, dirt and all. Two cats, a dog and Dad lived in a house with carpeted floors that he never vacuumed. He bathed with a basin filled with water and washed his clothes when he had to. And he would be quick to tell you he was living the life other people could only dream about.
I am beginning to think we have unknowingly fallen prey to the powerful advertising industry. Who came up with the notion of only wearing a pair of jeans once, washing hair and showering every day? And where did the myth that cleanliness is next to godliness come from? Hmmmmmmmm. Advertising lobbyists?
Maybe we should lighten up and relax a bit more. Rip up the carpet because it is dirty even when you think it is clean. We wouldn’t want anyone to be a slave to that “outlandish vacuum cleaner thing.”
I’m confident Dad would approve.