Note: As the eighth anniversary of the death of my father draws near, I am re-running a column I wrote seven years ago on the first anniversary of his death.
For the longest time my sisters make fun of me because I can’t seem to let anything go. Its life isn’t over yet.
They see an old stairway banister, I see a plant stand. They see a useless wine bottle and I see something to fill up with herbs and vinegar. I make purses out of my mom’s old aprons and picture frames with pressed flowers.
They get to a point where they joke even about my beloved Fiero—parked for years as it was in front of the house.
“She’s going to turn it into a planter,” Roseann says. And it’s something I actually consider.
Why? Because I have an ally. Someone who also sees possibilities—who helps free the “inner art” of things. He doesn’t make fun of my crazy ideas. He actually helps me make them real.
My dad. A man who’s made wine racks out of shipping crates and trivets from corks—mirror stands and stepping stools from planks of wood that his father used for something else. Odds and ends he sees something else in. Things my dad keeps in the attic somehow end up as things we couldn’t live without. Not only is the work beautiful, the story behind the work is beautiful too. My sisters and I are the lucky recipients of these multi-faceted things.
My dad never turned down an idea from me. One year he painstakingly and skillfully cut seven sets of big and little reindeer from plywood because I wanted to give the finished products out as Christmas presents to my sisters and boss.
Dubbed lovingly ‘The Reindeer Project,’ each reindeer had four parts that had to be custom cut so they’d come together and be taken apart easily after the holidays. Put together, they were three dimensional little creatures of cuteness. Apart, you could store them flat and tuck them away on a shelf.
The largest one was maybe 16 inches tall—antlers included. And of course there was a baby one standing no more than maybe 8 inches—meaning the touch with the saber saw in cutting them out had to be light and careful. Of course, that was right up his alley—perfectionist that he was.
Since I ended up hand painting each reindeer, I fully understood when Dad told me later it was a great idea and an outstanding project, but I should wait a long, long time before asking him to do something like that again. We laughed. I heard him. I wasn’t about to get so overly ambitious anytime soon myself.
The latest project involved wine bottles. Of course, there’s no shortage of those in my family so it seemed like a natural.
As always, I bring one over to the folks’ house to show everyone. I just know the sisters will be wild about them. And I just know Dad can make one for each of us.
I had purchased the bottle at a craft show in Dryden—it may have been during their Fall Fest. It was a green DaVinci bottle, a good bottle when full, and made beautiful when empty by a small string of white lights.
The bottle had been drilled out in the back and the lights were fed through the hole and stuffed inside the bottle. The crafter had enhanced the beauty by adorning the neck with some raffia and a cluster of pretty real looking red grapes.
As predicted, the sisters went gaga over it. As I also knew, Dad was up for the project.
Though he was not well and battling a life-altering disease, he went to the hardware and came home with a couple of glass drill bits to practice with.
When he could—on the days when he was feeling semi-okay, he’d go out in the garage and practice the fine art of drilling glass without breaking it. This is how he spent the little time he had left when he could—creating things right up until it was no longer possible.
Today, I look around at all of those creations and am grateful for my tendency to hang onto things. Every time I look at the things my dad made for me, I’m reminded about possibilities…and all the beauty that comes from seeing the gifts in life, and that life is such a gift.
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.