My dad can do just about anything. Our house is filled with woodwork and stained glass reflecting his craftsmanship and attention to detail. He cut and finished the Adirondack siding for the exterior himself, and lovingly laid each piece of stone. The garage is another example of his work, as is the patio and the multitude of stone walls which litter the backyard.
Over the years, he had a number of hobbies, each of which he threw himself into whole heartedly, learning every thing there was to know about the field – from fishing and boating, to farming, turkey hunting, masonry, skeet, golf and more. He excelled at them all, as well as sports, because of his thirst to master every skill that interested him.
He’s a tough act to follow, my father. Because he is truly a man who can do anything he puts his mind too. At 50, he took up flying, and a few years later became a flight instructor and opened his own flight school. By 60, he was flying jets.
There is simply nothing the man can’t do.
Well, except operate the dishwasher.
Ditto the washing machine.
The microwave, he can use. But mastering its use took a few agonizingly long months back in the late 80s, early 90s – whenever it was we got our first one. And he was forced into it, really. Because when my mother entered that whole “change of life” period, she abruptly ceased putting dinner on the table for him every night as she had done for the preceding decades of their marriage.
I know it’s not the technology itself which stumps him. He doesn’t have a problem with all that complex avionics, after all. No, I don’t believe it’s an inability, but rather an unwillingness or reluctance to assume any responsibility for these basic household chores. (I think it’s for this same reason that he sometimes “forgets” to use soap when hand washing dishes.)
We forgive him these small indiscretions – even though it means we have to rewash everything in the dish drainer to be safe – because we love him, and he’s set in his ways. Ways in which my mother has enabled him during the 51.5 years of their marriage.
We Catholics call that penance.
I know that every guy out there isn’t like my dad. I spent a few days in Connecticut earlier this week with my old college roommate Liz and Kent, her model husband. Who is not adverse to doing dishes, cooking, cleaning, etc. I know others too, who are willing and able to do their own laundry and do all types of domestic chores. So there is hope, I suppose.
But, in the same vein, I know my father is not alone. When a good friend of mine split up with his fiancee last year, he called me to lament. Not because he missed her, but rather that in her absence, he didn’t know when to add fabric softener to the wash. This, might I add, is a man who was in the special forces and spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan. War wasn’t a problem for him, but apparently unsoftened fabric was.
I recommended he get one of those Downy balls – a piece of advice for which he still thanks me.
Yesterday, my brother did laundry before leaving our house to head back to New Hampshire. He didn’t want to admit to my mother that he was unfamiliar with the task, but gave himself away when he added fabric softener instead of detergent. And then tried to dry everything with no heat.
He swore my father to secrecy, as well as my aunt, who is also visiting. But the pair gave him right up. As they laid their dirty dishes beside the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher.
I have no room to talk, I suppose. Because while I know how to check my tire pressure and my oil, I choose not to. I mean, why should I, when batting my eye lashes works so well?
And when that fails, there are always tears to fall back on. That gets him every time.
Love you, Dad.
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