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Little Wrench–Sneaky Trick

July 28, 2012

It’s not easy when you discover that your own Father is a rat bastard.

So there I was recently, helping my Father declutter the house so as to make a little/quite a lot of room for the new person in his life.  In my “sorting, fluffing and folding” of the things piled waist high in my brother’s old room, I stumbled across an old wrench.  There isn’t anything terribly special about the wrench at first glance, so I will need to explain why I am writing about it at all.


Let me begin by saying that my Father, who can fix and repair just about anything, is notorious for getting a project in the house started and then getting distracted and not finishing it for some time.  He always leaves the materials to do the job right where he was working, so that he wouldn’t have to go and hunt for them a second time when he finally did get back to the task.  The idea, of course, is that he would indeed get back to the task sooner rather than later.  Sometimes this worked out as planned, and in the case of Todd’s old room… well, let’s just say that the project was started sometime before I left for college and I just got around to picking up the materials and putting them where they belong, abandoning hope.  The reality is that there are sets of tools all over the place.  If ever I get the chance to sort the garage and house, putting all like things together, I am going to find that Dad’s owns a gross of screw drivers and a bevy of wrenches.

Over the years, as my Mom’s mobility issues grew more numerous and she became less and less inclined to take things she was no longer interested in using out to the attic over the barn, she had my father lug the stuff up to Todd’s room.  That top third of the upstairs became the area where “crap went to die”.  No kidding.  There was so much stuff in there that it took me three days to stack it all out in the garage to be donated to the various charities that my Mom thought would benefit from her things.

I have tried for years to get those two children of the Depression to thin the herd when it comes to their stuff, fearing just what I went through over the last week.  I was never very successful in encouraging those two beautiful people to get rid of their junk.  Whenever I was home on vacation or otherwise, Mom and I would sometimes tackle this area or that and clean out, but it seemed a short lived catharsis.

Before she passed away last December, Mom caught my Father “cleaning” out her junk drawer—and she was pissed!  “What the hell is your Father doing?”  she shouted at me.  “He has enough of his own crap to clean up.”  I assured her that Dad’s turn was coming and she couldn’t have been happier.  “Good.  Serves him right, the rat bastard” she stated as she laughed sardonically from the other room.

When I told Mom that Dad’s turn was coming, she knew what I meant.  Over the years, whenever I insisted that Dad come and finish a project with me, we called it “quality time”.  Oddly, Dad was never as fond of the “quality time” that we spent together as I was.

In this last visit to Maine, Dad and I spent quite a lot of time together, sorting through my Mother’s discarded belongings and finding all of them a good home.  We talked and laughed and reminisced about any number of things, saying good bye silently to Mom and the things that she had accumulated over the years.  It wasn’t until the final push to get that last room upstairs cleaned that I found the little 4. Wrench sitting on the floor.

I told Dad about the little wrench when we got to his cousin Suzanne’s house for a visit up in Aroostook County.  Dad always carried a jack knife and a little wrench in his pocket, so I was rather expecting that he would just say something about how nice it was to be retired and not have to have those things handy any longer.  My prediction proved false.  At the mention of the little wrench, he began to giggle and his cousin asked him to explain:

“When the kids were little and their Mother sent them out to ‘help’ me with this project  or that, I would sometimes send them to fetch some tool I needed.  When they got back, I would tell them that the one they brought wasn’t quite right and send them to get a different one.  In the meantime, I would haul my little wrench out and fix the problem.  When the kids got back the job was done and I had had a few minutes of peace and quiet.”

You see what I mean.  The man is a rat bastard.  Here we were—willing carpenter’s assistants and he sends us out on fool’s errands just to avoid spending “quality time” with us.  I used to think that perhaps I was unfair to expect Dad to help me finish projects around the house, even if Mom encouraged me to get him to do them; I used to think he worked too hard and that perhaps he needed the break.  Well not any more!

I am going to be hanging that little pocket-sized wrench on my Christmas tree this year, right next to the set of cooking spoons that my Mother used when I was learning to cook.  I am hanging that little wrench to remind me of all the truly quality time that Dad and I spent together over the years.  While I am not a carpenter and would certainly never hold myself up as one, I do have a lot of the basic skills that it takes to run a house and keep it well maintained.  I tell people that I have a lot of the theory and none of the practice to accomplish the kinds of tasks that Dad did so effortlessly.

If the next time I am home for a visit, Dad leaves me alone in the house to sort and clean all day like he did one day this last time, he and I are going to spend quite a lot of extra “quality time” together.  I’ll fix his goose.  He’ll wish he had that little wrench back then, I betcha!  The little rat bastard found a way to keep us quiet when we were kids, but it won’t work again.  The jig is up!  I am just glad that the next time that I go to Maine, the quality time that we will spend together can be just to socialize and get to know each other better as adults.  I am hoping of course that Dad will be as fond of the “quality time” that we spend together as I know I will be.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mindy permalink
    July 29, 2012 1:48 am

    I look forward to a picture of your Christmas tree! Great story!

  2. Anne Healy permalink
    July 30, 2012 8:43 pm

    Oh my Word!, James, you had me concerned! Glad I read to the end, Ha, ha, Ha,. I vote for a nice plaid ribbon with which to hang “THE” wrench. (I do get a vote don’t I??) So good to see you both when you were in ME.

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