I went to Lea’s mom’s yesterday to put together some Christmas presents. I didn’t take any tools, anticipating stepping out to my father-in-law’s garage if I needed anything I couldn’t find in the house tool bag.
And I did. Visiting Nelis’s shop is bittersweet and evocative. It’s pretty much exactly as he left it. Rick, another son-in-law, is also in there periodically, but I get the sense he treads lightly just like I do. So when I find a tool or some hardware I need and grasp it, there’s an excellent chance that Lea’s dad was the last person to touch it.
Nothing teaches economy like a lifetime of hard work, and there is most-for-the-least thinking everywhere. There is no need to purchase an expensive bin system, when these (store-brand) dog biscuit boxes work just as well. There is a power tool here and there, and in most cases they’re of high quality, decades old, and well-maintained.
I needed a 10mm combination wrench yesterday, and there it was on the peg board, hobby-wired through the box end together with other metric sizes. I wondered what he had last used it for. I was careful to preserve the securing method when I replaced it on the board.
The experience reminded me of something that happened earlier this year that I wish I’d blogged about, but I didn’t think about it until it was too late. One of my mother-in-law’s toilets was acting up, and she asked me to look at it. I took the lid off, and I’m certain that the mechanism I found in the tank was original to the house (and the house is 50 years old). For one thing, it had much more metal in it than anything I’d ever known to be part of a toilet. For another, I could look at the different patinas on different repairs and say “okay, Nelis fixed it there 30 years ago, he fixed it there 20 years ago, he fixed it…” Heh.
It only took me a few minutes to restore the toilet’s normal operation, but I did it with a $12 plastic assembly from a box store. It felt almost criminal. I’m sorry, Nelis. I promise I won’t fidget when I see you again and you gently admonish me for taking that easy way out.
He was such a neat guy, and having him in my life for the short time I did was a blessing. I miss him. Everyone does. You know, my marriage is a promise to Lea and a covenant we both have with God, but I’m humbled and inspired all over again when I consider that I’m also entrusted with that great man’s baby girl.