Best Tools for the Job

When I was young I loved helping Dad with projects in and around our house. He taught me how to fix things like a leaky sink, as demonstrated in this candid photograph captured by Mom. No matter what he was up to, my curiosity and wanting to help drove me to be right beside him.

His toolbox was magically filled to the brim with gadgets and gizmos all designed to inspire, create, and improve. I learned every tools purpose, alternate uses (pliers are perhaps the most magical of all), and how to discern which ones are best suited for the task at hand.

From time to time Dad, having searched nearly everywhere, would ask me where a particular tool was because I’d often have them in my possession. One time he could not find a single nail in his toolbox. I proudly showed him my work of art: a nail board. Every variety of nail he owned had been hammered into a scrap piece of 2x4 board that I found in the garage. I remember him laughing but in that annoyed way when parents love you too much to really get that upset.

Fast-forward some few decades later to a hospital room where Dad is hooked up to all sorts of sterile medical equipment. None of the tools in my metaphorical toolbox will fix the reality that Dad has cancer, and that the radiation from 10+ years ago is now causing hashemorrhagic cystitis. None of the tools can do anything about the 5 stents in his heart. None of them can reverse the prostate cancer from spreading into his lymph nodes and bones.

A few years ago when Mom was sick and dying I wanted so badly to fix everything. It took me a while but I now realize the best tools for the job are just being there, being present, and being loving. No one told me how difficult of tools these can be to use when you are scared and heartbroken.

Leah Cunningham @leah