Jan 07 2012

Parallel Life

My dad is a therapist to troubled adolescent boys, and a good one at that. He's worked at Timber Ridge School for the past 22 years--the only job he's had since our family moved from South Carolina to Virginia. I can see how impactful his work is when I'm flipping through images on his camera. When a boy is ready to graduate and move away from the confined, structured environment of Timber Ridge and return to the real world, my dad makes sure to take a picture with him before he leaves. Both faces are glowing: my dad's with pride and the boy's with hope and gratitude.

This is all to say that I know my dad is an excellent counselor and has positively impacted many troubled boys' lives. But--if given the opportunity for a parallel life, he'd be a woodworker, a craftsman. When my parents lived in South Carolina, they lovingly restored our family home, transforming it from a scary drug-den to a beautiful southern gem. (I just re-watched a home video house tour while I was home. The house was stunning!). Along with our own home, my parents were landlords of a number of smaller properties. In my rental years, I've often wished I had a landlord like Mom and Dad. I vaguely remember hanging out in various yards and climbing trees, while my parents fixed shutters, helped with yard-work, painted, and put in new cabinets.

And to top it all off, some of my favorite furniture in my parents' house was made by none other than my dad. As a woodworker, he's able to to see an image in a catalogue or in person and then say "I can recreate that". And he does. Because he doesn't have much free time, his creations can take months. But he's a perfectionist--and even if he has to spend 15 minute intervals for 5 months on a piece of furniture, he creates a beautiful final product.

I'd love for my dad to build something for our future home--I do have a desk waiting at their house when I'm ready for it. While we were visiting over Christmas, my dad helped me with a very basic task. I wanted new shooting surfaces for various tabletop photography and had asked my parents if we could work on that during my visit. I envisioned going to Home Depot, buying some cheap boards, glueing them together, and then painting them. My dad more than one-upped me by pulling out various pieces of wood he had saved. He then sanded, varnished, and smoothed the boards. For my father, this was as easy a task as possible, but it's one that I couldn't have replicated--and it was fun to watch him in his [other] element.