The guy I roomed with for about ten seconds after joining my fraternity came with the pledge name “Tool”. He thought it was because of his prowess with the ladies, the rest of us knew it was because he sounded like an idiot trying to regale the crowd with his tales of conquest. Eventually he learned, not just of his nom de plume but how to act around other people.
My niece has a guy in her life. And he is doing his best to put everyone in the family at ease while still being a 16 year old boy. He brings flowers for her grandmother, tries to remember to “Yes Sir, No Sir” when talking to her father, and he is absolutely not sure how to deal with me. But over the weekend he made a valiant effort towards gaining my trust.
He has a car so in need to daily repair that he actually spends time each day tightening some bolt or hoping that all the pieces come home from his lawn cutting hours. Purchased with money from his own grandparents when he was 14, his father has helped him rebuild as much as possible. But then I was asked for some advice…
Number One Rule: don’t get between a father and son when they are trying to form a bond.
In this case it was with permission. It was about some electronic portion of the stereo that his father just couldn’t decide on so he opened it up to the floor. Since the young man is over on the weekends for Sunday brunch, he asked me to sit and talk.
I know nothing about restoring cars. Minor things I can fix, major things have me making calls to the mechanic for an appointment. But adding some speakers and a radio, I can handle this.
It wasn’t even a talk about the price or even what he wanted it to look like. We talked about the music. Knowing the engine is always going to be heard, that squeaks and rattles are the symphony of the metal and rubber, it never was going to be a concert hall of silence when the doors shut.
My dad taught me about acoustic models when I was a kid. Different power ratings, ohms, peak watts versus balanced output. An engineer’s dream set of questions asked by his son who wanted to listen. We were building a sound for my keyboards, but we also built a better understanding of each other.
He was the tool I needed than, I’m the tool someone needed now.
Of all the things I miss about my daughter, not having the ability to see her face when she learns something new truly upsets me. That set of eyes growing wide [that scene in Zootopia with the Sloth is a perfect example. That’s why everyone loves it, they know that feeling and want it every day!], her excitement with her accomplishment. My smile knowing her exact feeling. It’s also why I feel a simple level of guilt about having been the one to teach my nephew to ride a bike. On a basic point I took something away, even though my brother didn’t care. This also was the same time my daughter had passed away so I might have also been given a pass from him?
Last night, before crawling into bed I ordered something on Amazon. Nothing big or expensive, but a puzzle piece that will get them started. My niece will be the one who actually gives it to him, another one of our little secrets that harm no one.
Having retired last month since I felt my work wasn’t up to snuff, having someone ask me for advice made me feel useful. Just a simple reminder that even when I don’t see it or even feel it, others do.