This I Believe

Kathy - Concord, Ohio
Entered on June 11, 2007

“This I Believe” essay submission A Dad’s Greatest Gift

Sometimes the true value of a gift takes some time to reveal itself. So it is with the small, yellow toolbox given to me by my father many years ago. Around age 25, I was moving into my first apartment. Before I left home, Dad put the toolbox together for me, his oldest daughter. It contained all the basics: a hammer and nails, a couple of screwdrivers, a folding ruler, vise grips, a wrench, and a pair of pliers. They weren’t cheap tools, either; Dad always said that the more expensive, quality ones were better and lasted longer. The most important thing, though, was that he didn’t just hand me the toolbox – he had, throughout my youth, been teaching me to be comfortable using the tools it held.

At age six and too sick with the chicken pox to go with my grandmother, mom, and sister to a church mother/daughter banquet, I stayed home with Dad in his downstairs workshop. What did we do that afternoon? We built and painted a small, wooden boat. I pounded the nails and applied the powder-blue paint. To this day I picture myself rising to the challenge, guided by my Dad’s wisdom and direction. The fact that I was a girl made no difference. I was my father’s child, and I was going to know how to do these things.

The spring I was 16 and learning to drive, my assignment was to change the snow tires on my mother’s car back to her regular tires. It was just me and a lug wrench and my Dad’s watchful eye. Did I ever have any fear of changing a tire by the side of the road after that? Not for a second.

Long after I’d moved out on my own, I packed up and moved cross country to another East coast city. My toolbox, of course, went with me. Hanging pictures at my new place was easy. Small repairs, a snap. I had everything I needed, thanks to Dad.

After I bought my first house as a single, working woman, I installed window air conditioners, draperies and blinds, and a wall-mounted hair dryer among other things. I pulled up carpeting. Hammered down a stair runner. And put up trellises on my front porch. Toolbox in hand, I even helped my neighbor with some of her household maintenance. (She was elderly and, unlike me, had never been shown how to hold a hammer or screwdriver.)

After all these years, my toolbox is still with me and, thankfully, so is my dad. He recently had hip-replacement surgery, and we discovered that a spring had slipped from his favorite recliner. In reaching for the vise grips to fix it, I couldn’t help but think of all the love and assurances packed in alongside. ”Thanks Dad,” I said, “for what I believe to be one of the most precious gifts from a father to a daughter.”