Father’s Day is a mixed bag for many folk. Mother’s Day too. I walk the fine line in church every year on those “holi”days of acknowledging that some of us had parents that fit the ideal, some of us don’t, and most of us have a mixture of experience if we were truly honest. I’ve come to believe that most people do the best they can by their kids.
My father, Charlie Driscoll, died 12 years ago this July. For the first decade, I was processing pain. Seriously, the first decade of grief, was dedicated to the difficulty of living in a household with an alcoholic, becoming the “adult child of an alcoholic” and one enabler, and the grief that death was the only way my dad was to be free of the disease. (Please don’t reply with ideas of how helpful rehab is; for some folks, my dad included, death is the only release. I’ve come to terms with this; I don’t need you to do so.)
Over the past couple years, I’ve had clear moments of feeling my dad’s presence. I do not subscribe to any particular expression of how that happens. Maybe he’s really with me, maybe it’s something my brain does. It’s ok either way because what I know now is that my dad and I are making new memories, good memories for today that are connected to good memories of the past. It is so holy. Let me share one with you.
Nick and I recently bought a house in Tulsa. A couple lovingly cared it for since the mid 1970’s. They last updated in the early 1990’s. Suffice it to say, we’ve got our work cut out for us as far as making it our own. But, it’s fun and we love working together on projects.
Before we moved in, it was my job to remove the wallpaper in our bedroom so Nick could paint. At the hardware store were many tools to make this happen. I left with a scraper designed for removing wallpaper. After a few hours of scraping, which seemed to be much harder that I anticipated, I left to check on the dogs. Nick and I would continue the work later in the day. When we came back, I scooped up the scraper and noticed that the blade was loose. After looking carefully, it became apparent that the DULL side of the blade was facing out. For several hours that morning, I’d been using the dull side to do the work! Out of nowhere, I heard my dad’s chuckle. (If you knew him, you know exactly what I’m describing. My brother laughs that way sometimes and it always brings a tear.) Anyway, I heard my dad chuckle, and said out loud to myself, “Let the tool do the work, Kelli.”
Those words, “Let the tool do the work, Kelli,” are nearly scripture to me when it comes to my memories of my dad. You see, Charlie was a mechanic. He worked on helicopters while in the Coast Guard, went to Spartan here in Tulsa, and worked on planes after that. Eventually he worked at Libbey Glass because airplane mechanic jobs were sparse in Shreveport. As a small kid, I wanted to work with him on projects. I also always used the tool wrong. When I say always, I mean it. If he gave me a hammer, I’d hold it by the head. If I was asked for a Philips, I’d always come back with a flathead. You can get nail in that way, or the screw, but it will be a LOT more work. “Let the tool do the work, Kelli.”
This Father’s Day, I’m looking forward to more memory-making with my dad. Reclaiming my history in a way that is heart-felt, honest and so very apparent in my life today. Here’s to more memories, Daddy. I’ll try to let the tool do the work.