I AM A FOUNDRYMAN’S DAUGHTER.
My Old Man and Me
July 26th is my father’s birthday. If he were alive, he’d say he’s 94, 95 or, maybe, 96. During the Depression and wartime, he adjusted his birth certificate accordingly because he was underage when he first began to set off dynamite charges for the road crew in upstate New York. After I came along, he became a foundryman and made a life on a few acres outside of town.
Every July 26th, my mother dressed for Mass, followed by dinner with the St. Anne’s Society ladies. But for dad and me, it’s T-Day. My father expects his garden to produce ripe tomatoes by his birthday and he gets them. We share the salt shaker and eat those beauties, warm and juicy off the vine. This is Our Time, the season we spend outside doing Interesting Stuff.
I watch him concoct nutritious plant sprays that peel the skin off his face and arms. Don’t tell your mother. I see him mix noxious solutions that, when poured into the ground hives of bees, send clods of our backyard over the hill and onto neighbor Henry’s porch. Let’s keep this between us. I’m there – hold that ladder still! – when he becomes airborne while rescuing discarded sheets of fiberglass awning from Joe-Across-The-Street. I hold the tools – where’s that wrench? – while he cobbles together a grape de-stemmer for our family winemaking, shovel cement so he can construct a three-tier Roman fountain complete with statuary, and lug bricks for the outdoor kitchen that boasts an arched beehive oven, grill, and sink with running water.
He’s pretty much unstoppable and I’m his Right-Hand
I steady the mold for the lighthouse he erects in the front yard, arrange patterns with flagstone for patios, and sort rocks for walls.
I get to fiddle alongside him as he turns wine barrels into coffee tables and fusses with wood, clay, plaster, paint, and marble.
We root around in the garage and scour his cache of odds and ends in search of the elusive nut, bolt, or screw to repair and reconstruct all manner of engine-powered machinery. Like I said, Interesting Stuff. And a mother lode of memories.