Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Saturday, June 7, 2008

In Stitches

A Stitch In Time... Seldom Gets Done.

Perhaps things have changed... but I notice a lot of people who simply can't fix things. There are things that to me seem like they should be simple household tasks, but to others seem impossibly complicated and "Call in the experts!"

Maybe Mom and Dad just taught me too well? (Nod to Mom and Dad.) Maybe it is a way to simply not have to do some sorts of work? I really did not consider myself that good around tools. I never thought myself great with crafts or cooking or stuff. I would watch Dad in the basement and was always curious about what he did, but I did have a few rather large problems when it came to doing some things.

For instance, I was terrified of machines that had moving parts!

Well I did learn lots. Dad built a fence around our large yard in Calgary and I watched even as a toddler and child. I watched as he put in framing and had a cement patio and sidewalk put in and a 6 foot tall privacy fence to surround our new wading pool. I learnt the difference between stain and paint and that you could treat posts before putting them into the ground. I learnt about different tools like post hole diggers and Dad would even let me try them out.

When Dad put up the Christmas Lights he taught me to hold onto the ladder because it was an important safety thing. He showed me that you could prepare in advance so that the right strings were always to go on the right part of the house and go up straight with the bulbs always pointing down instead of dangling. Dad also taught me that a person, if they knew how and used the right tools and parts could make extension cords the correct length and sort to safely connect the lights so that you didn't have to go outside to turn the lights on and off. Dad taught me that most times it was worth doing things the right way the first time. He also taught me that there were occasions that it wasn't necessary, though they were rare.

Dad finished the unfinished basement in that house and he did everything really. I was amazed that Dad - a truck driver - knew so much. But Dad grew up on a farm where they did everything including wiring and they did a proper job with it. If Dad didn't know how to do something he would ask - and I learnt that from Dad too.

Dad didn't drive truck all the way until he retired. He moved into the office and dispatched trucks as a terminal manager - pretty good for someone without a high school diploma. He also switched gears to repairing the big rigs and did such a good job that when the company, a major dealership closed down - many of the customers pressed Dad to start his own shop.

I inherited and learned many things from Dad. I took a bit of a different direction from him. I went down an academic lane and took electronics and computer programming. At first the electronics was an option for three years in high school and the computer programming was self taught in computer club in high school as they did not yet have computers in high schools. PCs didn't exist yet and the large things called computers were restricted to Universities, Technical Institutes, Larger Corporations, and Institutions still. However I learned and the same abilities at putting stuff together and trouble shooting when things weren't quite working, worked just fine whether figuring out the lighting on a Freightliner Pulling a Great Dane or A FORTRAN IV program on a Xerox Sigma V.

Now I also watched Mom around the house and watched her sewing and mending. I watched her cooking an baking too. I always did think that cream puffs were magic... But I learned to thread a needle and I learned to do a chain stitch and figured out how to make a space suit for my 12" original GI-Joe including a closer that incorporated a Ziploc fastener and clear plastic visor I made. I figured out how to sew a rubber band from a newspaper in for a waistband. So I learned more than skills from Dad...

I guess what I am getting to is that I can fix things and make things. I can swing a hammer and hit a nail. I have problems understanding guys my age who can't? I do have patience with them, but it really makes me curious... I think most of the guys older than me can do that, even the ones who went on to become bankers, and lawyers, and so forth. I can understand some women my age not having that experience... but on the other hand... they often have problems with buttons - meaning sewing on loose ones. I am not asking that they sew in a zipper, just sew on a loose button or shorten a cuff. How come I can do that and nobody really even taught that to me?

I really do not think I am that special. A friend asked if I could help put on some cupboard doors in a house he was renovating and he was totally amazed that I could measure them and place the screws for the hinges and screw the doors into place levelly and properly before he came back. He figured he would be coming back to find me juggling pencil and measuring tape still. He was used to guys who had problems operating screwdrivers.

Oh, I still don't "like" power tools, but I can work a bit with them.

I have patience and I enjoy teaching people how to do things. I do wonder why they might not know how to do them yet. But I still remember learning and just what a person might have to be shown. A lot of people forget what it was like not to know. I firmly believe that everyone should be shown a bit of everything so that when they are on their own they are not totally lost and can at least ask the questions to find the path to the solutions. I always encouraged the women in my age group to take those courses offered especially for women on maintaining their car. Checking oil and transmission levels isn't that hard, nor is maintaining air pressure in tires - of course someone has to actually show you and let you get your hands dirty.

Okay... maybe I am special? ...maybe I am just lucky? But I would like to spread that around if I can.

~ Darrell


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