Monday, October 21, 2013

Making the bed


Just one normal thing each day.

I love a made bed. I especially love getting into a made up bed at the end of the day. I've never liked getting back into a rumpled bed after a long day. It just feels wrong and messy. Even if I do nothing else useful all day, making the bed proves that I accomplished one thing, however menial.

When I went off to college, making my bed every day became a necessity. It wasn't always in the morning, when I first got out of bed. I am most definitely not a morning person. In fact, more often than not it was probably afternoon, once classes were over and I wasn't rushing like mad to get out the door, that my bed got made. But I would always make up the bed before sitting down to study or write papers. It was a functional necessity for my education. An organized room meant an organized mind.

Recently, working at home, it's become just as imperative to my productivity that I  pull up the bedding and plump the pillows before accomplishing any "real" work. Now it is actually one of the first things I do, since I'm usually not rushing off anywhere -- except to take a pee and get some breakfast before sitting down at my computer. I love that immediately I can check something off my mental task list right at the start, and it makes my whole house feel tidier. 

Add to those practical reasons a heavy burden of grief, and making the bed has become a staple form of therapy. Comfort is found in routine and participating in "normal" activities, when so many other aspects of life no longer seem normal. Some days are much easier than others, for sure. But many days I fear I would just get right back in bed if I didn't make it up. It has become the signifier that the day has begun, and there is no going back. "You're up, you can do this, keep going."

Until today it never occurred to me that making my bed was something that was always on the chore list growing up, without fail. My dad stressed neatness in our personal spaces even more than my mom. She's the one that worries about the house being clean for company, but she always tended toward the parenting principle that our rooms were our sanctuaries and were ours to keep (within reason) to our own standards. However, bed-making was an item that was always at the top of those daily lists made out by my dad and begrudgingly followed by his children.

People say I will find ways to keep my dad close, even though he isn't physically here with us anymore. They say that I can be comforted by knowing he's always going to be apart of who I am, and that I will always carry him with me. Maybe it's a stretch, but in this small task - ingrained in me by my father - I find this to be true. And I find it to be comforting.

I will happily make my bed everyday with you in mind, Dad. We will start each day together.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Mr . Green, Mr . Fix - it

Written on May 21, 2013

My dad is really good at fixing things. He knows a lot about how things function, and how to trouble-shoot when something malfunctions. Not limited to material items, he also knows a lot about a lot of topics. He's one of those educated people who actually knows how to use their education properly. He has a broad base of knowledge, with specialization in many areas, but he can engage in a theoretical discussion about something he knows very little about by drawing from past experiences. It's actually always been something I very much admired, but was at the same time rather irritating.

Every day my dad goes into people's homes and fixes their machines. He's not a silent repairman. He knows most of his customers, some are old friends from high school or their parents or offspring, and if a person is willing he keeps up a stream of conversation while he's at work. He's taught many people the value in having a reliable repairman you can count on in your time of need, and he's not afraid to give free advice. He's served several generations in our hometown. You can't go anywhere in town with my dad and not run into someone he knows. People recognize his truck around New Braunfels and honk and wave. 

I used to ride along with him in his truck and while my jobs were pretty menial (hold the flashlight at the perfect angle, keep track of the screws he'd just removed, carry the kneeling pad, etc), they were absolutely necessary in my eyes. In fact, I used to wonder what he did on every other day when I wasn't there. How did he manage to position the flashlight correctly if I wasn't there to hold it? How did he keep from misplacing those pesky screws? I didn't realize until much, much later that riding along with my dad on jobs - and just being his daughter - had left me with a pretty good understanding of how things work. Much more than flashlight-holding and kneeling-pad carrying, it had also imparted a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to fix things around me. 

I was the only girl in my entire dorm freshman year who was sent off to college with a full tool kit. And not only did I have tools, but I knew how to use them! Word spread and occasionally my roommate and I would get a tap on our door from some poor girl on a different floor (that's a world apart, mind you) who needed to borrow a screw driver to put together her desk chair. My dad had outfitted me with all the practicality, problem-solving, and handiness a girl could need. I felt good that I had been given the tools to survive in life. I knew how to fix things.

To this day, when I don't know how to fix something, I call my dad. So imagine my distress to find that my family is in a situation my dad doesn't know how to fix. We are utterly confounded, and the one person my entire family always turns to for an answer, doesn't have one. Because there isn't one.

I think that's what I see when we make eye contact. He knows I'm a fix-it person, thanks to him, but he feels as helpless as I do. He knows I don't look at a situation and see problems, but solutions. We are the same in that respect. We are always trying to anticipate the bad, the wrong, and the broken, and make it good, right, and repaired. Somehow our expert "fix-it"training has failed us here. We've encountered something that's broken, and no amount of knowledge, experience, or expert deduction is going to repair it back to the way it was. 

He can't fix himself, and I wasn't given the right tools to do it for him, but we will go on trying. 'Cause we're also both stubborn like that.

My dad passed away September 25, 2013. He was stubborn till the end. We never stopped trying.