Dad's tools

May 19, 2024

I spent the week with my mother to help her with several tasks. She will soon be moving and will live near her children. It's a wise decision, she knows it, but how heartbreaking it is.

We now have to sort through what she will keep. She has done a lot over the past year, giving herself time to think about how to change the course of her life. Her children are there to support her in this important transition.

My father's workshop in the basement was in semi-disarray. Although the large machinery—table saw and band saw—had already been given to a nephew, and Mom had sold some tools here and there, the workbench had remained almost as my dad had left it. A few remaining antiques will go to a brother-in-law: an anvil and a vise dating from before my father's time.

This place, although cramped, had been more orderly. Skilled with his hands, my father always built, painted, and repaired things. Before becoming the director of three plants, he had been a furniture worker. When I was still very young, I would accompany him to the basement of our house in Victoriaville. There, he would make furniture or frames with wooden motifs. I once told him that all his tools would be mine when he passed away. He replied, "Let me live, but I’ll surely give them to you." My father reminded me of this episode throughout his life.

I remodeled my apartment, which I bought fifteen years ago. I had then bought what I needed, so I didn’t need his tools, which he was still using anyway.

I threw away a lot of scrap metal from the workshop, wondering what to do with everything that could still be useful. All those screwdrivers (my God, why so many?), all those hand saws (including two from my childhood), those clamps, those numerous hammers, and enough screws to restock a hardware store and bits of sandpaper that should have long ago ended up in the trash!

Mom will likely leave many things for the next owner of the house. Though I was tempted to take the old hand saw I used during childhood, I told myself I already had one. Of course, the one hanging in the workshop is the one my father used all his life. It still seems good unless I’m just imagining it. There's already another saw next to it, almost identical and perhaps older.

Otherwise, what would I do with this old chest, which is not at all practical, but whose wear has its beauty, almost its pride? And this pretty bucket delicately adorned with a scalloped edge, from when does it date?

As I cleaned up, gathering the paint cans that I knew, without even opening them, were too old to be of any use, I silently remembered my father's hands on all these objects.

When you move out, you don’t break your memories. They are too flexible, bending as you age. Mourning comprises multiple whispered goodbyes as you climb the ladder of hours.

When moving day comes, I will probably take a few items from this workshop. They will serve no practical purpose, but they will be close to me, just as the legacy of that wonderful man who was my father is.