Tuesday, July 17, 2012

By My Father's Hands, By My....Words? On Sacrificing Stuff

Last week, our water heater died. Or, as it happens, just stopped working for a day.  I stared at it, mumbled "Huh."

And called Dad.

Two weeks ago, my lawnmower broke - a mooring holding the engine down snapped, so every time I pulled the cord, the engine tipped back (not good). So, I called Dad.

Once, the water pipes burst.

In my face. So, with water gushing all over the place.....you guessed it. Called Dad.  And he came out with his acetylene torch, copper tubing, and fixed the dang thing.

I could go on. As  you can see, I'm not much of a handyman.

Not long ago,  author Briane Keene blogged about his weekend-long writing marathon, to catch up on deadlines. In his blog, he shared something I really identified with: 
I didn’t mow the lawn. I didn’t clean the house. I ignored all incoming phone calls. I skipped out on attending events , and I declined invitations to hang out with friends. All I did was write. 
Now, I can't say I've ever endured a writing marathon of that magnitude. But the part about stuff he wasn't able to do - because he was writing - really struck a chord within me. Ordinarily, with rare exceptions - like this week, with Madi at summer camp, and Zack at summer school, leaving the whole week free -I usually write for two hours EARLY in the AM, and if I'm lucky, an hour right before bed.

But I do it. Every single day. And even if for some reason I sleep in, I steal some moments at some point later in the day to get my quota in. I've had to make sacrifices in order to do this.

1. To get up so early every day, I need a rock-solid, set bedtime. So, I don't watch TV anymore (which is okay, 'cause I really don't think there's much good on).

 2. I don't have much of a "social life". See above, RE: bed time.  But that's okay, because I'm not much of a social person. Kind of a hermit.  I've always said that if weren't for Abby and the kids, I'd never leave home. But even so, there are things I'd like to attend occasionally - basketball games, concerts, plays, poetry readings, etc - but if I did, I wouldn't be able to get up early the next morning and write. 

3. I'd call myself a "good" teacher. I do the best I can.  But I'll never win "Teacher of the Year", have yearbooks dedicated to me, or win any awards.  Those folks - they amaze me.  They eat, sleep, dream, breathe, live teaching. I'm not even sure I COULD do that.  But the fact is, though I love teaching...I'm a writer.  Any spare minute I have will be dedicated to that. Not my teaching career.

4. I keep up with the chores as best I can, try to maintain the upkeep around here.  But there are big projects that need to be done.  And sometimes, I wonder if I'll ever get to them.  Why? If I have a free moment, I'm not working on the sidewalk, mowing the lawn, staining the fence, or trimming the trees.  I'm reading or writing something. 

And, being a man - this is a source of never-ending guilt. I try to keep on top of things, but it's always been this way.  When I was kid, Dad once tried to prod me outside, teach me how to tune the car up. My response? "But I'm not done with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yet!"  And this leads directly to the last: 

5. I'll never be the craftsman my father is. He amazes me. I'm literally envious every time I visit (once a week, over the summers), when I look at everything he's built: with his own hands. By himself.  Check it out, below:

I'm okay at basic repairs, I can mow the lawn, change a tire (used to be able to actually tune up old FORDS), paint, and I'm decent at gardening.  But I'll never be able to build stuff like this.  Yeah, I know: I'm comparing my 38 year-old self to a retirement-age engineer who's been working with his hands all his life.  When he was 38, he wasn't building BARNS by himself, with his hands.

But, that's the thing: I'll never be able to build stuff like this.  Because I made a choice, long ago.  That I'd build things with words, not my hands.  And I'm pretty sure - unless something changes in a big way - when I'm done writing, give up, whatever, those buildings of my Dad's will still be around long after my words fade away.

I can tell you one thing that came from Dad, though. The work ethic.  Dad always preached that, from day one. If you "love" something, "prove it". Don't talk about it. JUST DO IT. (Apologies, Nike. My Dad said it first). Go do it, every day, and maximize what you have.  And, well...I "love the IDEA" of building stuff like my dad, but I LOVE WRITING more.

Which leads into my next blog topic, coming soon....