If family stories are to be believed, my great-great grandfather, out of his distrust of
banks, buried thousands of dollars in his yard, never informing his children and wife
of its location. If true, someday someone is going to accidently dig in the right spot
and find themself winning the lottery without purchasing a ticket. If someone
happens to dig in the right spot on any of the properties my father has owned over
the years, they are going to think they have discovered a long lost tool store.
We are a family that loves to buy those multiple use tools. “It’s a screwdriver, It’s a
ratchet wrench, It’s a hammer, and makes waffles to boot!”, which usually means it
cannot do any task correctly. My father spent a small fortune on these tools, which
his sons borrowed to open paint cans and to do various tasks then promptly
deposited in the yard, then promptly forgotten about, only to be discovered by an
unsuspecting lawnmower or when the last of the winter’s snows disappeared. As his
boys got older, many of the tools developed wings and migrated to his children’s
houses like those dogs that walk across the United States to be reunited with the
humans that love them. His tools also developed the child-like love of playing hide-
and-go-seek, hiding underneath boxes and clutter in rooms they should not be in
and pockets of his children’s coats long worn out.
Which means, my father has become a conspiracy theorist over the years. None of
his sons have touched his tools in years, having tools of their own that vanish,
migrate, and play hide-and-go-seek on their own. If something in his house needs to
be fixed or put together, if he cannot find the proper tools, he is quick to blame
others! I am not saying whether he is right or wrong because if you discover a thief
trying to open your safe four or five times and the safe is robbed one day, it is a good
assumption that that thief might have done it. In turn, his tool collection is a
hodgepodge of miss -matched pieces.
Even though my dad worked for an electrician when he was a teenager and
grandfather was a sledgehammer mechanic when he farmed, that is not to say that
anyone in my family ever did anything miraculous with tools. The best thing one of
my siblings ever did with tools was to change his license plate in my grandfather’s
driveway and then promptly run over my grandfather’s toolbox backing out of the
Because my father worked long hours and was often tired when he got home,
whatever small skills he possessed, were not passed onto his sons. I doubled down
on this by being left-handed, having extremely poor eye-hand coordination, and a
hair-trigger temper and possessed little patience when I was younger.
(One of my best friends loves to tell the story of the last time I went golfing. After
numerous bad shots much to the giggles of my friend, I told him I was going to
throw my golf clubs in the water if I shanked the ball in the river teeing off on the
fifth hole. Plop, into the drink it went and my friend’s club followed after. I wasn’t
going to throw my clubs in the river. Not one of my finer moments. I apologize.)
Tools involve patience and skill to use. Not things that mix well where one gets
angry if things don’t come easy. Elvis had it right. Frustrated with something? Shoot
it with a gun.
That is not to say that tools don’t harmonize with my inner-Tim “The Tool Man”
Taylor. I am a man. I was in a discount tool store the other day when I came across a
six-foot pipe wrench for $18. I have absolutely no clue what a human being does
with a six-foot pipe wrench, but something deep inside of me wanted to buy it. I
pictured my friends stopping over to gaze at my huge pipe wrench like we were the
monkeys before the space monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I stood before it
mesmerized for a good ten minutes. It just seemed like something every guy should
own and it was glorious.
So, I know that the siren’s song of tools speaks to me. I love air compressors,
sledgehammers, crowbars, the kind of tools one would need in a post-apocalyptic
suburbia to fend of one’s zombie neighbors, but that is where it ends.
The women in my life know that I am clueless when it comes to my hands. If a light
bulb needs to be changed, they better be channeling their inner-feminist and put on
some sensible shoes because they are the one’s that are going to climb that ladder to
do it or have my handyman on speed dial.
I remember putting windshield wipers on a car after hearing the words “at least
you could do something,” the pride I felt when it started to rain, and she turned on
the wipers. Swish-swash, and then off they sailed into the Interstate’s ditch. It was
no longer safe to drive with the pounding rain. She said, with love in her voice, at
least I hope it was love, more likely suppressed rage and hostility, “You are pretty
much worthless, aren’t you?” “Pretty much so,” I replied through my tears of shame.
It is why when it is time change my wipers, I become Oliver Twist around my
friends, “Please, sir, can you please change my windshield wipers for me.”
Still, I have decided lately that I am going to be a bit handier around the house and
my vehicle. A few months ago the cold winter killed my car’s battery. I was proud
that I was able to go all on my own to the chain store and select the right battery.
Okay, the guy working there told me which battery I needed and picked it out, but I
actually went into the establishment and used my credit card to pay for it.
Since my tools were stored away in plastic bins, I decided to use my father’s tools. I
figured it would be at worst a bonding experience, a father and son working
together to accomplish a goal, a cherished memory if you will.
It is not a memory my father wanted. Maybe it is because Wheel of Fortune was on
and he was keen on solving the puzzle. At least until I told him I was going to borrow
some of his tools to do it, and then, like a bad Vietnam flashback he got up and went
out to the garage to help me. Maybe not help, but most likely to protect what few
tools he had left.
With most cars, changing a battery is easy, that is if you have the right tools. He had
sockets that did not fit the wrenches, screwdrivers that were either too big or too
small, and the proper fitting sockets strangely were missing. I am sure if I would
have searched my father’s yard, looked under some boxes and clutter in the
unfinished room, maybe gone over to my brothers’ houses and searched, I could
have found them and the right screwdrivers too, but who has time for that. It was
then that my father came back with one of those multiple use tools, not only was it a
ratchet wrench (or spanner?), but a screwdriver as well, both Phillips and flathead.
Summoning my inner-Zig Zigler, I said to myself, “I can do it.” An hour later, I
realized I couldn’t. I pressed ahead any way, hoping some kindly gentleman in a
pickup truck would see the open hood and do it for me in about two minutes. Still, I
believed in myself. That is the secret of life, believing in one’s self. That is why
humans have gone to the moon, we have climbed the Alps, and discovered the
secrets of the genome. And I did it, people. I changed my own battery!
Now there is something every woman in my life reminds me of when I drive down
the road, with each left hand turn. Because, with each turn of the wheel towards left,
my father’s ratchet wrench socket, that I dropped into the engine bay, rolls across
the bottom pan and hits the side with a loud thud.
Now the door handle on my car is broke. Can anyone help me fix it?