I say “I” because in all reality, my dad did most of the building and I like to think we know each other well enough here that you would already realize that even before clicking on the link to this post.
When Mike and I were driving home from dropping Anna off at college, I was thinking of things to keep me busy so that I wouldn’t miss her as much as I did at that very moment.
It was as we were in the middle of God knows where (an actual place, by the way), an idea popped into my head:
I MUST HAVE A PICKET FENCE FOR MY HOME AND MY DAD MUST HELP ME BUILD IT.
Kind of like Field of Dreams.
Only with picket fences.
I was feeling all sorts of Kevin Costner as we drove home with one less member of our family.
I was going to make lemons out of lemonade, or at least picket fences out of two by fours (again, no clue how any of that works, so don’t come at me in the comments).
So there is a history of sorts with our family and picket fences in that my dad has made a lot of them in his day.
I don’t know the entire story but let’s just say it may have started with my mom wanting a pretty little picket fence and knowing just the guy to ask.
That’s my dad for those not good with innuendo.
My dad is really good at things like woodworking, analytics, math, angles, and the Pythagorean theorem.
I, however, am not at all good at any of those things, which irritates me.
I seem to be following in my dad’s footsteps, genetically health-wise, and frankly, it pisses me off that THIS was the stuff that didn’t make its way down the DNA chain.
So I mentioned to my dad that I wanted him to help me construct yet another picket fence for our front yard to line the walk to our driveway.
That creating a fence together as father and daughter would help to heal my heart which is missing my oldest child.
That was back in mid-August.
Fast forward to mid-October and no fence had been constructed.
Life gets away from you.
Also, one never mentioned to one that one gets a lot more done when one less person is vacating your residence.
But thank God for my dad to remind me that “we” had plans.
My dad told me that he would buy all of the materials ahead of time because it was just easier that way.
He’s known me for 48 years, he knows I would be trouble to go to Home Depot with.
He showed up on my driveway the day before we were due to start our little project, like the HomeDepot fairy.
I have no idea how any of that stuff is going to become a fence.
And THAT is why he didn’t take me to Home Depot.
So I need to give you some backstory.
Mike was talking to me one day about this project and I was all, HOLD IT RIGHT THERE SPORTY, THIS IS A FATHER-DAUGHTER PROJECT.
Listen, I love my husband dearly and I enjoy spending time with him, but I had intended for this to be only my dad and me.
I don’t live with my dad, time is precious, and honestly, we’ve never done anything like this before and I really wanted to bond over this.
So the day of the project arrives, which also happened to be Mike’s day off.
It also happened to be a high of 45 degrees with a wind chill of about 35 degrees.
I don’t do cold very well and did you know there is a lot of digging when you make a fence?
There is a lot of digging when you build a fence.
I swear I thought Satan was gonna jump out and start helping us.
So day one was my dad and Mike building the fence, while I took pictures, got boards and pickets and stuff (again, I have no business being involved and I think we both know this), as well as occasionally helping dig to Hell.
But I want to be transparent and let you know this because it won’t sit well with my conscience.
Also, thank you to my husband for letting this one slide without making a big deal.
Okay, he kind of made a big deal and teased me all day by saying YOUR project directed at me, very loudly, whenever I was in earshot.
I love you, honey. You look nice today. Don’t leave me.
After eight hours of hard work, we had the start of a picket fence. Since it was getting darker (and much colder), they decided to call it a day.
The rest of the work would be done by my dad and me since Mike would be at work.
Did I also mention this happened on the first day that Ella was to be homeschooled?
It happened unexpectedly, so her first real day of homeschool was spent watching her grandpa and mom finish the fence in the rain.
So two days later, my dad and I resumed the picket fence making in 45-degree weather, wind, and this time, rain!
It turns out Satan was helping us!
It was during all of the above it became quite clear that I also didn’t inherit my dad’s temperament.
He was so patient when I accidentally held one of the pickets in the wrong position and he had to pull out the nails and re-hammer them back in.
In 45 degree weather, wind and rain.
All without one single swear word.
If that were me alone? The neighborhood would have been filled with a cloud bubble as big as a zeppelin full of nasty verbiage.
Lots of F’s and S’s and a couple A’s thrown in.
He is also very particular (in a good way) about his work.
As you all know (especially the lifer’s who’ve been reading since the beginning of time), this is not how I operate when doing a craft or home improvement project.
It was during our work in the rain that I kept thanking the heavens for how lucky I was to get the dad I got.
A dad that comes to your home when you are in a post-college drop off funk and creates a picket fence opus in your front yard.
Not many dads would do that, you know.
Then it made me realize that I would do this for my kids if they asked. Well, Mike would do this for our kids if they asked.
I would help carry pickets or take pictures, or sit in the house and make coffee and talk at the table instead.
Yeah, that’s probably better for all involved.
It made me realize that as much as I don’t think I got a lot of my dad passed down those DNA rails, I actually did.
I got the stuff that counts.
The good stuff.
Not the Pythagorean theorem.
When it was all done, it felt like a sense of such accomplishment.
I actually did help my dad build a picket fence!
Those two and a half hours in the cold rain finishing up this project was some of the best stuff I’ve done in a long time.
A few days later, Ella and I painted the fence and I called it “recess”. It was our first week of homeschool and although a lot of homeschool people would say she should have had a week off to “deschool”, I felt the need for routine.
So as we eased into the homeschooling routine the first week, I had her do little projects alongside me and called it things like “recess” or “field trips”.
It was during “recess” while painting the fence that Ella asked about Papa and his woodworking skills.
How did he learn to do this?
It sure was nice of Papa to come over and do this for our house when he doesn’t have one.
Tell me the story of why Papa builds picket fences.
Someday, I want to learn to build picket fences for my kids.
It turns out, Ella also got some of the good stuff that counts too.
While I was painting the fence, Anna was on her way home from a quick weekend visit on the train.
She told me about a man who was struggling with a life issue and she told me that she prayed for him.
It surprised me in the best possible way because this simply isn’t like her to say something like that.
It turns out Anna got some of that good stuff too.
Every time I look at this picket fence now, I think of my dad and his loving abilities.
Not that I needed a fence to encourage me to think about him but it’s nice to have a daily reminder of his love for me and my family.
I also think about my Mom and her suggestion to paint the fence gray (a color I would never have thought and absolutely love now); I think about Mike and how I am so lucky to have him to help with the “father-daughter project”; I think about Ella and her sweet comments; I think of Anna praying on a train for a stranger in the middle of central Illinois.
It turns out this picket fence is more than just a fence. It’s a daily reminder of how amazing my family is.
I wish that for everyone.