(To mom, upstairs) "A part of my room fell down."

(To me, downstairs) "Dad you really need to come see this and it's not good."

Hrm, that sounded a little more serious than the normal kid alert. Heading upstairs, I found that the double curtain rod had been pulled down by a kid sitting down across a curtain - and along with it, the 8-foot long window moulding board atop a double window.

It's okay, kids, yes we know it was an accident. It didn't fall on anybody, did it? Good. This looks fixable, don't worry.

I grabbed the standard hammer and screwdriver from my upstairs toolbox and set to work. Nails were coming out of the back, but this was pretty painted white casing... It wasn't too hard to find a strategic direction, but I needed some more things from the stash. On my (several) trips to the garage, I found myself mentally thanking my dad for the tools. I claimed some from his collection after he died. Others were gifts, around the time we became homeowners.

  • A quick-adjust jaw wrench for grabbing
  • A nice power drill, electric because batteries don't last
  • A set of drill bits in every size, in a vintage metal fold-out rack
  • A nail collection of assorted sizes, formerly in little clear plastic cases
  • The thing like an awl but with a flat tip the size of a nail head, for pushing a nail down slightly below flush
  • A precision light-up stud finder

I keep most of these in the full-height tool cabinet he got when downsizing, after moving away from our childhood home with the 8' by 12' woodworking shop that he had built himself. It had a shake roof and siding to match our house, and I spent a fair number of hours inside those bare plywood walls with him, the little space heater, and tools. Tools hanging on pegboard across an entire wall. Stand-alone table saw, band saw, and lathe taking up most of the floor. Tabletop drill press, vise clamp, shelves of labeled plastic cases, and boxes and boxes of vintage tools underneath the counter from my grandfather (on my mom's side).

As a kid, I was generally pretty into hanging out and "helping" with his projects. I learned how to safely use the saws, had my own ear protectors, and used the blowtorch to decoratively singe my 7th-grade shop craft wind-spinner. But I also saw him problem-solve out in the shed. There was always a way forward - if one way didn't work, he'd try a different clamp or different saw or just re-cut a different piece after finding some measurement or marking error. I absorbed risk management strategies: when to measure twice, and where to just try it and keep shaving it down. How to look for and visualize the things that could backfire and hurt you.

So today, I found myself noticing that doing these things which seemed pretty normal to me, these are actually skills, and that they were gifts too.

  • Knowing about those flimsy nailgun nails, and that I could just pull them through the other side because they barely have any head on them
  • Remembering to scrape off any splinter extrusions around the nail holes so the board could go flush back against the wall
  • Being familiar with drywall and wooden stud frames and how far I needed to go into them
  • Knowing that the wood was hard and thick enough that I needed to pre-drill holes about half the width of my nails
  • Figuring I could hide my new nail holes underneath the metal of the curtain rod holders - if I sunk the heads well enough

I didn't even have to take the curtains off of the rods. So yeah, this is a sentimental "thanks, Dad" to his memory, for the time that we spent together. I'll pass it on in the same spirit - whether in code or in wood, the engagement of creating and the confidence to try.