Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Father's Daughter

Snow globe of me and my dad

On father’s day I always think about how I was never considered myself a Daddy’s girl.  I was the 5th born of 6 kids and the first and only girl, the only girl of 6 kids.   Obviously everyone thinks my parents were trying for a girl and the 6th child must have been an accident.  But I don’t think my father was trying for a girl at all I think he was trying for the ultimate hockey line.  Its true, we believed the 6th child really was an accident ; ) but conveniently he made an excellent goalie!.  Until he came along I was the ‘stand in’ goalie,,,from the moment I could stand my brothers strapped boys skates on my feet and planted me in front of the net while they took shots at me (on our ice rink in the backyard).  That’s kinda like what the rest of my childhood was like..  

Everyone assumes I must have been spoiled being the only girl, in fact I was anything but spoiled,I would say it was more like I was spared.  The boys would torment me to the edge then stop short of getting caught by mom or dad.  Maybe they resented me because I had my own room, I’m sure that was it.  Believe me, having a room of your own was a priviledge in a 1200sf 3 bedroom house.  Being the only girl made me an easy target for my brothers, they have no mercy when it comes to sisters.  It was entertaining for them to see how quickly they could make me cry or how easily they could scare me or out run me or out jump me or outshoot me or throw farther than me. So it became my goal to not let them see me cry and to try and keep up with them, not only did I want to do everything the boys did, I wanted to do it better.  Sure I could ice skate, slolem ski, drive a speed boat, dive off the big rock, swim across the bay, catch a line drive, and a 16 lb pike, drive a golf ball 300 yards, but that was before I discovered power tools. : )

My dad never hired a repair man or a tradesman in his life.  If it was broken he fixed it, if it was beyond repair he made a new one,,,as a rule he wouldn’t buy anything he could make himself.  And he would never ever, ever throw anything out, especially a piece of wood - a child born of the depression era.  Old hockey sticks were prime lumber. I’m sure he could have written a book on the things you could make with old hockey sticks.  Til this day my parents first colour tv cabinet still sits in my moms living room - the tv was encased in a wood cabinet so even when the tv tube was shot my dad continued to use the cabinet to house all his future tv’s - it was perfectly good wood afterall.  I even remember him re-painting his own car,,,,,,,with a brush!  I remember the endless home repair projects because I was often my dad’s helper, I would stand by watching him work on various projects and hand him the tools or hold things that needed holding. He owned every tool and gadget you can imagine, our garage was like a rent-all store, if you needed a tool, Howard had it.  There was always a stream of neighbours and relatives showing up to borrow tools (he kept a log) and the phone was constantly ringing with requests for a helping hand for a repair project.  My dad was the go to guy if you needed help with fixing something.

My father was a master Mr. fixit, a genious DIY’er and a pioneer of reuse and recycle, he repurposed everything and not because it was the 'green' thing to do.  He was innovative.  Before there was picture in picture tv, he stacked multiple tv’s side by side and watched them at the same time.  He put wheels on furniture long before mobile furniture was trendy, he was as savvy with a sewing machine as he was with power tools. He sewed his own slipcovers not because he was trying to be shabby chic.  He used the sewing machine to repair holes in our camping tents and to make new covers for cots and mattresses, and new seat cushions for chairs, he even sewed our own life jackets (?), kinda scary.  To everyone who knew him he was the one who could figure out how to fix anything and everything - and he always did.....except for his cancer.  That was the one thing he couldn’t fix, and no one else could either.  Sadly he lost that brief horrific battle 3 years ago and we all miss him terribly.

Never throw out a piece of wood, it might come in handy (example above)
Why buy a birdhouse when you can make one (example above)
Birdhouse made by Dad from salvaged scrap wood on display in my moms garden.

Thanks to my dad, I have a pretty good collection of power tools and I’ve used all of them personally for many home improvements over the years, when I moved into my first home, my dad would give me a new power tool for every birthday and christmas.  I think it was his way of saying 'your going to need these a lot so you should learn to use them yourself'.  And I’m so grateful I did.  Nowadays, I dont’ have much time to do projects around my home myself but its a good feeling to know that when I ask my ‘handyman’ to do these things for me or if I hire someone to do it, I know its not because I can’t do it myself.

I inherited a lot of my dad's traits and its served me well in this profession - I’m inherently resourceful, technically intrigued, and I have this unending desire to ‘fix things’ to solve problems, to reuse or repurpose things, to figure out to how make something work better, or create something for less than what it would cost to buy it.  I know I definitely inherited the ‘why buy it when I can make it’ gene from him but sometimes it works to my detriment.  A civil engineer by profession, my dad was a superb draftsman, his hand printed schematic drawings were like works of art, beyond that he didn't exude much artistic flair - I was fortunate enough to inherit that gift from my grandmother (his mother) who was a stained glass artist.

I’m also thankful to Microsoft.  Really.  Because up until a couple of years before my dad died, I never imagined anything I did could really impress or wow my dad much,,,,,until he decided to take some computer course to learn how to use a computer and the internet.   That’s when the proverbial tables changed and my 20+ years of using a computer finally payed off.  The fact that I could easily navigate my way around an MS operating system with my eyes closed made me look like some kind of genius, I might as well of been Bill Gates in my father’s eyes.  He looked at me with utter awe and amazement as my fingers flew across the keyboard,,,with multiple windows open at a time, ‘fixing’ all of his problems, finding all his 'lost' files and folders, using shortcuts and showing him around the 'big wide web'.  He’d often call me with a computer question or problem, I was his hotline for computer help, talk about role reversal.  Something that was so easy to me, so effortless and second nature was a total mystery to him. Something my father (and brothers!) didn’t know how to do that I did!  So if for nothing else but for my ability to use a PC and the internet he thought I was utterly brilliant. : )

I started this blog on the first anniversary of my dad’s passing partly because I was always thinking about him and missed how he was always asking about what I was working on.  If my dad was still alive today I know without a doubt he would be the biggest fan of this blog,,,,,I guarantee he would faithfully log in every day to see if there was a new posting, and if there was, I know he’d read it out loud to my mom,,,,,then he would email his siblings and tell them there was a new post,,, then he would call me and rehash all the details in amazement at the extravagant efforts I put in to sourcing this or this or that,,and then tell me what was on sale at Canadian Tire this week.  Of course first I’d have to walk him thru how to become a ‘follower’ and  how to leave comments, because he would want to do that....   

Happy Father’s Day Dad,,,,I know you're following.



  1. What a touching post and lovely tribute to your dad. I would have loved to read his comments here on your blog. I'm sure he would have been very proud of you.

  2. Aww, thank you RR!
    His handle would've been 'Daddy-O'!! When I was 10 I said I wanted to be an Archeologist,,,,,,,he soooo wanted me to do that.

  3. wow, that was the nicest post about a dad I have ever read...I have tears in my eyes, your dad would be proud of you. from all the design blogs out there yours is the one I look forward to reading, your design work is wonderful. have a great day
    Regards, Carol Ann


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