Finding the hole in the story l Chuck's World
Last updated 12/5/2018 at Noon
I was trying to find a way to leave my father out of this. It wasn’t personal; I was just trying to simplify the story, but then I noticed the date. My dad was born on Dec. 7 and died on Dec. 11. It makes sense that he might be on my mind this time of year.
But this isn’t about missing him, although I certainly do. It’s about one summer Saturday, a long time ago, and speaking of birthdays? It was mine.
I was only a few weeks away from heading back to college, and so I was doing what young people sometimes do, living in my parents’ house rent-free and not even considering becoming an actual adult anytime soon.
But it was, as I said, my birthday.
I’d invited a young woman to come spend the weekend at my parents’ house, someone I knew from school. She lived in a small town a couple of hours away, and I considered the invitation a small step in the right direction. We were beginning to explore a relationship that had potential, but was firmly in the friendship stage at the moment.
But it was summer, and warm, and my parents had a pool, and I believe I mentioned that it was my birthday. I was just hoping to spend some time with her, just to see how interested she might be.
My father didn’t care. He was doing what he did most weekends, which was tackling some home improvement project. On this particular day, he was hanging wallpaper in the master bedroom. It seemed to be a one-man job; at any rate, he didn’t ask for my help.
You wouldn’t have, either. I’m not really the kind of person who does well in that kind of environment. The home-improvement environment, I mean.
But this young woman arrived in the mid-morning, suitcase in hand, and I took her back to introduce her to Dad. I’m sure he was polite but probably not very talkative, considering he was involved in a project. I’m sure she was polite.
I just provided introductions, and then I spent the next five to six hours floating in the pool, feeling sorry for myself on my birthday, while my potential girlfriend and my father wallpapered his bedroom.
In retrospect, it made perfect sense. This was the sort of activity she was passionate about, as it turned out. She ended up getting a master’s degree in interior design, I believe, and eventually a doctorate in architecture of some sort. She knew how to do certain things, and had an interest.
She was handy, in other words.
As was my father. I’m not sure how passionate he was about any of this, but he was the kind of handy person who could and did fix everything that needed fixing. It didn’t matter if it involved carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, painting, digging or draining. He could do it. He was that kind of a guy. They must have had a great time with the wallpaper.
I am not a handy person, although I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you that. My wife is fairly handy, as are my children, so obviously there’s something wrong with me. I don’t volunteer to use power tools, and most times people don’t ask.
This is why I was reluctant to bring up my father. I didn’t want anyone to think there was some emotional trauma needing to be worked out here. We weren’t in competition with this sort of thing, since I always would have lost, and quickly. I just admired his skill, and mostly watched.
Besides, I’m 60 years old. I am who I am, and if I’m not the guy you call when you’re trying to fix your leaky roof, that’s fine with me. I’m comfortable being this guy.
And I can make donuts.
This is my secret weapon, although sometimes it’s bread, or cookies. My faucet may be dripping because I don’t really know how to replace the washer, but I know how to bake, and I’m not afraid to do it.
If you’re a real baker, you should probably stop reading. I’ve been baking for over 20 years and I’m still not a real baker. I don’t even have an apron.
I just bake certain things, then I give them to people because people like to eat stuff with lots of sugar and butter. That’s my secret right there. People like to eat.
Donuts are different. Donuts feel routine, something always around, and yet somehow mysterious. Somebody else always makes our donuts. I wanted to be that person.
If you’re a real donut maker, you should probably also stop reading. Sorry.
So I made donuts, for weeks. Cake donuts, yeast donuts, baked ones and fried. I made a lot of glazes. I threw away a lot of dough.
And at the end, I made a dozen perfect donuts. I picked one up gently, sniffed, licked, and bit. I approached this donut the way a cat would, although it would have to be a cat that liked pastries. I savored. I devoured. It was perfect.
Then I stared at the other 11. I was home alone. I realized I didn’t like donuts that much. Even perfect ones.
I’m not sure what the lesson here is, but I’m considering taking up woodworking. The kind where you can’t use anything sharp.
Or I could go with wallpaper. I’m not ruling that out yet.
I might need an apron.