Saturday, May 5, 2012

Man At Work

My father built a boat once.

Actually, more than once.  Growing up in Trinidad in the '40s and '50s as he did, you learned to live on a boat.  But you wouldn't buy one; you'd build your own.  That's just the way things were done, and he knew how to do it well.  So one summer... I think 1972... Dad built a boat in our backyard.

Not a canoe.  Not a rowboat.  This was a full-on fourteen-foot runabout.  A genuine motorized aquatic vehicle!  All-wood, handmade, with a fiberglass-and-resin reinforced hull.  It could handle up to 100 horsepower but Dad outfitted his with a relatively modest 40-horse Mercury outboard... not quite sufficient to tow a skier, but close.  And did I say handmade?  Dad found a book with the blueprints; bought the wood, parts, and fittings from Canadian Tire; and put it all together by himself, in the basement and back yard.  Cutting high density foam and blue sparkle vinyl for the seats.  (Yes, blue sparkle vinyl.  It was the '70s.)  Staining the deck.  And painting the hull in the iconic red, black and white of the Trinidad flag.

With all due respect to my contemporaries, I can't imagine anyone's father building something like that today.  My brother-in-law is remarkable at home renovations... but I don't suspect he's ever considered building a boat.

I was only nine or ten.  We'd take the boat out on the Rideau River, to the cottage... Dad showed it off for the relatives from Trinidad when they came to visit.  I believe he even let me take the wheel once or twice, when he was absolutely sure there was no one around for hundreds of yards.  He taught me how to fish, but I thought fish were kinda gross.  (Still do.)  And I had no idea what my sister and I had been given, man.  I was getting into hockey and football, and probably wondering why I had to take a day away from play to hang around with my dad so we could drag this thing into the water.  I don't think I even liked water back then.  Youth.  It was my dad's way of life, but it wasn't mine, and now I wish I could show it to my son.

This all came back to me recently, on Good Friday.  A day off.  Recently I've had a lot of days off... and I'm almost as mentally loaded down as when I was in the office at the radio station.  These days my smartphone is my office, connecting me to my network.  Back when Dad was building that boat, in the evenings and on the weekends... I don't believe taking time to check e-mail would have fit into the picture.

I suppose the message is... by no means an original thought... that you just might not remember how much you can do for yourself when you step away from the business side of things.  It's unfortunate that I've spent so much time recently putting my personal life in order, yet I can somehow feel "unproductive".  I remind myself that I'm actually gradually building a very small man, and hoping I will figure out how to teach him to care for himself and others.

So go take time for yourself.  And build something - a relationship, a passion, a reason to laugh. 

Maybe even a boat.

I'm done now.

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