'Course, he'd never seen the back of his own head, so we produced mirrors enough to show him. We proved WAY beyond a doubt it had been his head and his shoulders wearing his shirt, but he denied it because that was more fun then giving in. Ever after, we called him Curly, and he loved it.
I don't recall him ever saying, "Here, let me teach you how to do this", but if we asked how to do something, he was tickled to show us. He didn't have parenting classes that taught him to approve of every little effort we made. If he showed me, and I could do it right, he'd say, "Yup"...if not, he'd take the tool out of my hand and show me again, "Like that, see?" I learned that life isn't quite as serious or complicated as other people wanted it to be, and that laughing helped most situations. Most, not all. (I heard that if *someone* is mad at you, maybe being quiet is a good defense...or, maybe not).
He had a sense of mischief, always. One fall day, he came home with a giant trailer of pallets--those wooden platforms that merchandise is shipped on. He thought the wood would be great for his projects, and the scraps would burn in his workshop stove. I was enlisted to help deconstruct em (at twice the "normal" pay).
Josh was at school, and and Em was in the house baking cookies with Gramma when we started the next morning.
Curly and I each had a hammer, and I "got to use the wonderbar" while he used the crowbar. pretty soon, we had an easy rhythm going.
Since we were working in the driveway, all the pulled nails had to be retrieved. Bent ones in this coffee can, straight ones in that. Pretty soon, he figured a way to get the wonderbar away from me (it really worked better for that job) and at the same time, the bent nails became precious and couldn't be thrown away.
I knew my part--to insist they were totally worthless and very obviously sneak a few into the trash, and he kept inventing ways "we" could straighten them, cuz for sure there was a huge market out there for cheap straightened nails.
The next day, he produced a second wonderbar. I teased about how many Cheap Straightened Nails we'd need to sell to make up for buying it...
We were exhausted after 2-3 days of it, but were both sorta sad when we made it through all those pallets. When Josh and Em wanted to "pound nails" after that, they had a whole coffee can of cheap straight nails to use, and they did.
It was the best time I ever spent with Curly, partly cuz we were finally so compatible and partly cuz we both knew we'd probably never have that sort of project again, or the free time to devote to it.
When mom was moving to the condo a year after he died, it fell to me to clean out his garage workshop and find new homes for his tool, etc. Curly could toss out what he considered junk, but washers, nails and bolts--stuff made of metal--might possibly be useful someday. So he had drawers of sorted metal stuff in his workbench, and honestly, there on a high shelf, was that can of bent nails.
I'd been doing fine up to that moment, ya know? I have so many good memories...Curly and the pony....the fish house incident...letting me take wood for the tree house...Curly with my kids...helping fix a bike...his pontoon...the tire swings he made...Spike....baby birds...a fox in the garage...riding on his shoulders...the Skyline Drive in Duluth...planting apple trees....on and on. I still imagine how Curly would have handled this or that situation...and I imagine that he'd be so proud of us all.
I'm grateful he was my dad and for the large part of me that was shaped by him. Yup.