Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ranger Jim

My dad was the guy you called when a tree fell on your house, or a squirrel was in your attic, or you wanted to know how to work your new chainsaw, or you had some extra wood that needed a home (and some chopping). He could do anything, and I know most kids think their dads can do anything, mine really could. He built us a tree house with my grandad, built our deck with our regular handyman Mr. Jones, fixed everything, washed and waxed the cars, did the asphalt on the driveway, cut down trees, and always had some project going.

He worked hard, but played hard too. Until I got my learners permit, he drove a white Porsche 911 Carerra, and drove it fast. We had a speedboat that we took up to the lake during the summers; he water skied, we fished, camped, swam, jumped off rocks. After the boat, we had a pool. Then he got into windsurfing, and he'd go any chance he got. He made a rack and pulley system for the board in the garage. He had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and always loved to fly. I think he would have flown a cardboard box if he could. Small planes, gliders, hot air balloons, I think even hang gliders at one point. He was a serious runner for a while, played racquetball when it was the thing to do, skied, biked, you name it he at least tried it.

The house I grew up in had a workshop with a tall bench for dad and a child sized bench for my brother and I. We carefully hung our tools and materials on the pegboard shelves and hooks, so we could always find the blue paint for a model car, or the exacto knife for making doll house wallpaper fit perfectly. I credit my dad with my fearless approach to home remodeling and repair. Everything has a solution, and if you mess up, then you just learned something new. He never seemed to be worried about messing up a household project or repair. He'd hire folks to do some things, but he'd always help them in order to learn (and to save a dollar probably).

My dad came up to Boston to visit me in college pretty frequently. He'd take me and my roommates out for dinner, and treat us all like proper adults. He was friendly with waiters and shopkeepers. He had contacts everywhere - he seemed to always know "just the guy" for whatever it was you needed. Everyone loved him - he made you feel like you were important. He asked lots of questions and listened to your answers. He had a hug that enveloped you.

My dad took his own life seven years ago. I have decided to just not understand it. There is no logical sense to an act like that, and to comprehend it would mean that my mind could be that black, which scares me. I can't say whether his choice was helpful to him or not - I know he thought it would be. I do know that he has left a gaping hole. He has never met my husband or my children. He has never seen the unbelievable leaps of faith in renovating the last two houses I've lived in. He has not seen how many people his life touched, who still think of him with love and fondness, and miss his giant hugs.

I love you dad.
Ranger Jim 1/12/03

3 comments:'s good for you. said...

Powerful post and words, Laurie. I would have loved to meet him, too, based on how you describe you dad.

Laurie said...

Thanks Shawn - he was a really good man, and dad.

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