A Man Arta....
“A man arta look after his property.” That was one of Daddy’s mottos. I heard him say it all my life. We might be driving around town and, if he spotted a house with flaking paint or a torn window screen or an overgrowth of crabgrass, he’d huff and shake his head and say, “Well, if that don’t beat all—ain’t that a mess? A man arta look after his property.”
Looking after one’s property is an expansive philosophy that covers everything, inside and out, from paint jobs and major repairs down to the smallest detail. When it was time, Daddy sold his perfectly maintained house, the beloved retirement home he and my mother had built, just a mile and a half from the homestead shack where he’d been born. He closed that chapter of his life, crossed 700 miles and moved in with us. Even though his name wasn’t on the deed, it didn’t take him long to claim this space as “his property.”
When the moving van arrived, Daddy sat in a folding lawn chair next to the driveway and watched his life get unloaded. You’d think the arrival of his own bed and favorite recliner would have been the highlight of the day, but he was waiting for something else—the boxes labeled GARAGE STUFF. He’d brought along everything he needed in order to live up to that motto. His red toolbox held all sizes and shapes of hammers and wrenches and pliers that a man might ever need. There were three old metal coffee cans filled to their brims; one with nails, one with screws and one with nuts and bolts. Saws were stashed in a separate crate, and old shoe boxes had all the other odds and ends: work gloves and calipers, a fold-up carpenter’s measuring stick, a little squirty oil can with a long spout, trowels and putty knives, an adequate supply of electrical tape and an extra toilet flapper. You just never know when you might need one of those.
Within days he was on the case, looking for things around here that needed looking after. One afternoon, my husband and I were returning from a dog walk, and, as we rounded the corner, we saw that the garage was open. One car had been backed out and there was Daddy, ninety years old, perched confidently on a ladder, adjusting the garage door opener because, “it arta not be a-makin’ that much noise.”
He was obsessed with things that didn’t quite work like they should, and the latch on the patio door particularly aggravated him. He took it apart and put it back together and it still didn’t work right. Not one to back away from a challenge, he took it apart and put it back, again and again, always with the same result. It became his nemesis, a source of constant fussing and annoyance. It never did suit him, but he kept after it. Every couple of weeks, he disassembled it and cussed at it a little.
An errant shrubbery branch that rubbed against the side of the house soon found itself clipped down to a nubbin, and no faucet even dared to think about dripping in the middle of the night once Daddy moved in because, “a house arta be quiet and tight.” He certainly couldn’t abide a squeaking door hinge. The oil can was kept in easy reach on a shelf in the garage, just in case. No loose screw would be tolerated either and, with a screwdriver in his hand, Daddy was the ultimate crusader, bent on eliminating any loose, or even might-come-loose-in-the-future, screw. He went through the house regularly, checking every light switch plate and socket cover, every kitchen cabinet handle, all the stair railings and shelf brackets, every hinge and every doorknob—if it had a screw that might ever work loose, Daddy checked it and fixed it.
We miss him every day.
We’re not as meticulous as Daddy was, and things come undone around here now and then. Yesterday, I noticed that the doorknob on the laundry room door was loose. That’s an easy fix. I know how to use a screwdriver, and I could have taken care of it, but I didn’t. I waited till my husband got home and pointed it out to him. He grabbed a screwdriver, and we kept the memory and the motto alive because, “a man arta look after his property.”
About the author ~
Diann Logan is the author of The Navel Diaries: How I Lost My Belly Button and Found Myself (TerraCotta Publishing 2015), her humorous and poignant observations about getting older. Dear Navel Diary, Are You Listening? (TerraCotta Publishing 2018) continues her exploration of life’s surprises. She is also the author of Designs in Patchwork (Oxmoor House, 1987) and her designs and patterns have appeared in numerous other publications ranging from Ms. Magazine to Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. She is a recent contributor to The Quilt Life and Generation Q Magazine and spends time in her sewing room completing the collection of the dozens of quilts she made with her father during his last years. A gallery of her quilts is at diannloganquilts.com.
Diann is on faculty with University of Colorado Denver, belongs to Colorado Authors League and is a cast member of Listen To Your Mother Boulder 2016 and Listen To Your Mother Boulder 2018. She lives with her husband and their spoiled spaniel in Arvada, Colorado.