level tool webIn the eyes of the world, my father was just an average man — never invented anything, never made a speech, never sat on a committee, rarely ever gave his opinion to anyone. Truth is, I couldn’t tell you much about what he thought, or even what his political leanings were. What I do know about is his heart. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and was in an airplane mishap when everyone bailed out. His parachute malfunctioned and he ended up with a steel plate in his knee, one in his head, and blind.


He was supposed to rehabilitate as a masseuse, but somehow it didn’t suit, and instead, he learned carpentry. When he was discharged from the Connecticut hospital rehab center in 1946, he went home with a small pension and a room full of major carpentry items, like a large table saw, circular saw, drill press, miter saw, jigsaw, and countless other power tools, all with braille markings.

He learned quickly and soon was remodeling — First our kitchen, then our living room, then building a bedroom onto our home. The only help I know he asked for was when his friend had to measure out the dimensions for the new room and place the studs. Many times, I would come home from grade school and hear the sound of that huge saw, and when I opened the basement door, it was all dark.

Of course, he didn’t have any need for lights. He was as independent as they come. I remember him carrying paneling for our living room, six or seven sheets at a time on his back, a distance of about 4 miles from the store to our home. He never used a cane; instead, he whistled whenever he walked and somehow that got him where he wanted to go. I was almost eight-years-old before I knew he couldn’t see, and then a friend told me. He used to have my mother read him my Golden Books, and he’d memorize them and then “read” them to me.

And his heart: all anyone had to do was mention they liked something and within a few days, he would show up at their door with the item. He was the fix-it man in our neighborhood for everything from record players to electrical items to plumbing and of course, the go-to man never took a dime for his labor. When I had my first job in high school and worked at a dress shop from four until nine on a Friday night, he would ride with me and then stay in town for the entire time so he could feed the meter on my car that only allowed one hour at a time. These are only two examples of a man who spent an adult lifetime giving to others.

That big heart started giving out early. He had his first heart attack at 49, and his last at three days past his 60th birthday. It’s been over 43 years since he’s gone, but every Veterans Day I honor the daddy who may not have meant much in the eyes of the world, but who meant everything to me.

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