I’ve been working at a steady pace on this thing I’m calling “Fatherhood – 100 moments.” I posted 3 of them before Christmas and want to share 3 more out of the 80 or so I’ve got so far.
Unknowingly, I shared moments that deal with silence right now. It is what it is.
Hope you enjoy.
Some of my fondest memories are from working on wood with my dad. He has a workshop that is a bit too small to do much good with it, he often talked and dreamed of having a double-garage to work out from, but we always managed to pull out some magic out of that space.
It’s sort of a windowless den, maybe 16 x16 and he’s got a workbench in there, massive one, and a band-saw, tool chest, gun chest, table saw in the middle and we often had to set it at an angle to manage to work on bigger pieces of wood. I remember a few times when I had to hold the end of a piece and sort of angle myself against the stairs to make room.
My mom would inevitably come down at one point, complaining that we were making too much noise and ask “how long ’till you’re finished?”
This one time, I got it in my head to make a hipster table, the ones with just a massive piece of raw wood and metal legs that were everywhere online at the time.
It turned out to be insanely expensive to buy those in the city. It also turned out to be insanely inexpensive to make one to start with.
So I called my dad about it. He said, “I know a guy who runs a sawmill.”
The next day he had this two-inch-thick, two feet wide, eight feet long piece of a tree, bark on the edges and all.
“Guy asked a hundred for it.”
It was dry and thick and grey, with the massive teeth mark of an industrial saw, a good quarter inch a stroke.
“Guy doesn’t have a planer so we’ll have to do it by hand.”
It was going to be a lot of work. Those teeth were deep as fuck.
We got it down to the workshop, rested it on top of a bench. It was really strong and flat and massive. I ran my hand against the rugged grain, looked at the bark.
My father squeezed himself around it. He took out two sanders and some earmuffs. He silently put some fresh sandpaper in the sander and handed it to me. He look at me for half a second and smile like a freaking kid before he tossed me my muffs.
I just put them on and he started working on his end. I started working on mine. Hands following the grain the best I could. A few strokes and the grey wood made way to a softer, lighter tone of pine.
I looked at my dad’s end for a moment, just a moment. My hoodie was full of sawdust already and my muffs were damping the noise of his sander still working. His eyes focused on the job and his hands moving at a steady pace. I could hear my own breathing through my skull and I liked that.
I started working again.
I don’t think we said a single word for at least an hour. There was no need for words.
Just the noise of belt sanders,
And two men working together in perfect silence.
* * * *
There is no silence louder than the one in an empty home after you have lost your family. There is no silence like it in the world. It’s hard to walk into a place where the floors would normally be stomped with the tiny feet of your loved ones, where the kitchen would normally be alive with movement and a cat or a spouse and some oil in the pan and tofu in there too, spices, pasta, food, love, flowers sometimes…family.
There is no silence like the one you feel when you step into your home and everything is gone now. It will never be the same. You’ve had your transition, you suffered through the separation. You held your end of a deal that spared the kids the hurt of a trial and landed the shared custody you desired. The months of transition and “survival” have gone by and you’ve gone back to what seems like a real life and it hits you one day.
For me, it hit like a sledgehammer. I was alone and lonely, but I was employed and active and kept myself busy. I was walking home from work and the gym and my mind was in an ok place, all things considered.
Then I made it up my stairs as usual, turned the key and walked in. I took off my shoes, dropped my bag to the ground and then took off my hoodie. I closed the inner door behind me and I think something changed in me forever at that moment. It was at that exact moment. I can’t explain it. It was something inside of me that couldn’t handle everything anymore. I had enough time to make my way to the kitchen before I fully realized I was in trouble now.
I dropped my keys and my phone and my wallet on the counter and I turned around and I saw it. I felt it. I watched the white inner door and I felt the void in the home. No steps running around on the floor, no cat moving in the corners, no love in my life. Nothing.
I felt the most undesirable silence in the universe.
I had been a father and a spouse for almost a decade and now I was nothing. It had defined me for so long and I was so proud of it. It had been taken away from me. I was nothing again. Absolutely nothing.
I didn’t know back then it was the beginning of months of anxiety that were going to plague my existence.
I should have consulted right there. I should’ve recognized immediately the dangers of my pain and be humble enough to know that no one deserved to go through that kind of suffering alone.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t seek help for weeks but I can say for certain, It was right there and then, in November.
The hardest silence I have ever heard.
Dee comes up to my big empty bed sometimes in the middle of the night. It usually happens around midnight when the old man upstairs goes to the bathroom for the eighteenth time.
She knocks on my door and walks her tiny little body in with her blankie in hand. I barely need to wake up anymore. She knows the way by now. I just scoot over to make some room.
She stumbles, sleepy, on my mattress and stomps twice with her tiny fist where she wants me to put a pillow for her. I toss one over and she crashes on it, face down, tiny butt up in the air, ready to drool.
Obviously, she spends the rest of the night waking me up by tossing and turning and being a generally grumpy sleeper (the Celtic side is strong in that one).
I spend the absolute worst of nights. Every time, I’d swear to God, but I love it. 6 AM comes by and it’s time to wake up.
I take a minute to look at her, the way she’s peacefully passed out there. Her chest rising up and down with her soft breaths and I’m dead tired but I can’t help and think, “You got love in your life, man. You got love in your life.”