Yesterday I spent the day with my dad building some cabinets for the van. He’s a skilled builder and has worked with and made stuff with his hands his whole life. Throughout my childhood He’d always had me participate in various building and/or fixing projects he had going on, but I wasn’t very interested, generally, (or skilled, or confident). Because he was my dad, however, I participated. Without going into it all, this dynamic was complicated and caused some long-term emotional difficulties for me because I felt like I couldn’t be the kind of son he’d wanted me to be. I felt unskilled, unhelpful, a disappointment. Diving into this van build project has been and continues to be something that forces me back into a place that’s full of complicated emotional memories around this kind of work, but I think I’m handling it OK. The time spent with my dad yesterday has hit on those points in some very unexpected ways, and I’m feeling a little raw.
As we worked, I watched his hands move, something I’d done countless times in my youth. Thick and weathered, wrinkled with age, precise. So different from my own hands in many ways. I’ve often looked at my hands and wondered what they’d look like when I’m old, wondered if they’d look like his. But mine are slender, vein-y, built to do other things. I saw him draw lines and listened to him problem-solve, and watched him cut shapes with his 60-year-old jigsaw that I’ve seen him use since time immemorial. It was impossible to not notice how much he’s aged (he’s in his late 80s now), moving more slowly, having a harder time bending over to pick things up, having me lift heavy stuff, needing to take breaks periodically to rest. I realized in a way I never have before that he’s not going to be around forever. He could be around another 10+ years for all I know, but his time will come sooner rather than later. I photographed him, knowing these will be some the the things I’ll hold onto when he’s gone.
There were many moments I wanted to but didn’t/couldn’t photograph because we were busy working together. Building together. Sharing that space with a previously unknown (to me) ease and simplicity. Though my head and heart were a-swirling with memories and feelings, we enjoyed a rainy afternoon in the old garage making some boxes out of wood for my new home, and it was good.