Cracking the code of Dad's toolbox

Cracking the code of Dad's toolbox

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Bruce Corris

Bruce Corris

By Bruce Corris

This year will be the sixth anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m finally getting around to doing something that’s been hanging over me this whole time. Sorting out his tools.

There are several large bins of tools and assorted hardware items that have been in my basement since my parents downsized and moved into a senior facility not long before Dad passed.

There are two reasons I’ve waited this long.

One is emotional. Because I knew when I looked at certain tools, I would picture Dad using them. I already do that with tools that I’ve taken over as my own. Like his hammer. I had a perfectly good one. In fact, he bought it for me as part of my starter tool kit when I moved into my first apartment.

Dad’s hammer is older than I am. But every time I hold its paint-stained wooden handle, I picture Dad finishing our basement, or building one of the decks in the back yard, or assembling or repairing one of the many things he fixed or put together over the years.

The other reason is a practical one. I knew that I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what many of these tools are. Dad was extremely mechanically inclined. Sadly, he did not pass that gene along to me. In fact, I think one of the reasons he lived till 90 was so he could answer me when I asked him, “How do I do this?” or just called to say, “Help!”

And as I’ve sorted through the contents of these bins, my worst fears have been realized. What are some of these things? What on earth are they used for? Even the ones I recognize are challenging to me. Who knew there could be that many different types of wrenches?

As I’ve sorted and separated them into various piles, ranging from tools I recognized, to ones I have an inkling of what they’re for, to the ones I have absolutely no clue about, I realized something. In all the years Dad worked as a salesman with a territory that covered all of Western New York, he drove past many hardware stores. And he probably stopped at every single one. He loved tools. He knew what each one was for, and he knew the distinction between two different pairs of pliers that look the same to me. And over the years, as he built or fixed so many things, his knowledge paid dividends for his family.

On rare occasions, when something needs fixing and I can actually do it, I realize the sense of pride and accomplishment he must have felt all those times. A few years after he died, something in my house needed fixing, and the repair was in a spot that was difficult to see. But then I realized, this is why Dad had that mirrored tool. With that tool in one hand and a screwdriver in the other, the repair was actually easy. He would have gotten a kick out of that.

One of the reasons I chose now to sort through Dad’s tools is one of my nephews is moving into his first apartment, and he needs a starter set of tools. What better way to start him off than with ones that belonged to his grandfather? There’s another starter set waiting for his younger brother. Perhaps some of Dad’s mechanical aptitude skipped a generation and will surface in the next one.

Bruce Corris, who lives in East Amherst, has a well-stocked tool chest but rarely uses most of its contents.

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