The Workshop

Just the word "workshop" brings a smile to my heart, and a few tears. It was my Dad's favorite place at home. It's where I learned about tools, refinishing, building and life. He passed away this past June, more suddenly than expected. I am blessed to have some treasured pieces that he created in that workshop. I also have the memories that were created in the three workshops that existed during my life. For those I am equally, if not more, grateful.

“The greatest gift is not being afraid to question.” ~ Ruby Dee

As far back as I can remember, one of my Dad’s favorite stories about me was that my favorite words were “why” and “how”. When I was very small, like four or five, he had this tiny little workshop off of the garage. I still remember the smell ~ wood, oil, stain ~ ( come to think of it, it’s amazing it didn’t blow up ) That small workshop was my Dad’s private corner, and he allowed me to share. My Mom, always concerned that I didn’t belong in there or would get hurt, Daddy created a ”spot” for me. It was near the door, opposite of his workbench. He also built my a “why” stool. I was constantly poking my head around his back as he was blending, hammering, bending or whatever was on task. I wanted to see and learn. The rule was, if I wasn’t sitting on the “why” stool, I couldn’t ask the questions. If it wasn’t anything dangerous, he’d pull the stool closer, and I could ask away, watch and even participate. I loved to watch him blend the colors of paints and stains. I loved learning what all the tools were called, and what they were used for. I was like his mini assistant as I got a little older. There would be a project going on and he would ask me to hand him certain tools. I think back on those moments now, and I believe that he’d make a pile of tools close to me just so I could hand him certain items without getting into harms way, and I would learn. I can literally draw that workshop over and over in my head.

As I have begun to create my workshop now, I think of all the lessons that my Dad shared with me while I was in his workshop. He was never the lecturer or the “ I told you so” type of parent. Even as an adult, I’d ask him a question, and he would never say what I should do. His standard start was “ Well, if it were me, I might do it like ....., but I’m not telling you what to do.” He made a comment just a few months before he passed away that makes me laugh every time I think about it. We were in the workshop, and he was watching me make some jewelry ( the tables turned on the observer ) We were talking about a situation that I had created. He laughed, and said he knew from the very first minute that I was making a mistake on that one. I seriously never had a clue how he felt. I asked him why he didn’t say anything to me about what he thought. His answer ~ “Would you have listened?”. He knew the answer to that question as much as I did. So, he stood by, watched and was there to catch me when I fell. He never said I told you so.

Daddy’s workshops got larger through the years. He NEVER threw anything away. Downsizing a workshop, in his mind, was just not even a remote possibility. The workshop was fully loaded and everything had its own place. The workshop was where Daddy fixed things, built things, retreated and contemplated life. He repurposed furniture before repurposing was a “thing”. He, like my grandfather and great-grandfather, built furniture. He taught me to refinish furniture when I was around nine; by the time I was getting close to middle school, I could already handle most of the saws and other tools that he had in his “collection”. ( I had an amazing grade in workshop in junior high.) What I have learned from my workshop reflection is that I learned skills, tools, and life lessons. I learned about organization, tidiness, frugality, and taking care of everything. Daddy and I would talk and laugh about stupid stuff, but also about life. The workshop is where I learned that my grandfather was a terrible alcoholic, and that he committed suicide when my Dad was a teenager. I learned how they struggled, with 10 surviving children, through the depression. I learned about he survived Korea. I learned about his faith in God and people and even me. I learned that he put his heart and soul into everything he worked on. He loved the workshop, and everything that he created in that workshop, he created with love.

I knew through the years that my Dad had repaired, refinished, and built furniture for numbers of people. He always had several projects going at once. The man never sat still. I get that trait pretty honest. I moved away after college and didn’t interact with a lot of people from home; however, Daddy was a ”people person” and knew half the county if not more. When he fell, and was in the hospital the last twelve days of his life, I learned even more about the man than I even imagined. I learned scores of furniture related stories from a multitude of people. I learned that he taught people, other than me and my kids, how to use tools and fix stuff. I heard a great number of stories while he was in his last days with Hospice, but one story in particular summed up for me who I believed my Dad to be. A man called me and introduced himself. I had never met him, but I did remember my Dad mentioning him over the past ten years numerous times. This man was a veteran. He is much younger than my Dad was. That fact never surprised me because a Daddy never looked at age concerning anything much less people. This man told me about the day that he met my Daddy. He said that he lived close by, and he always saw my a Dad working in the yard, doing “stuff”. He said my Dad always would “ throw up a hand“ when he would go by. I don’t know why this man decided to stop that day, but he did. He suffers from severe PTSD , and was really struggling that day. He was having a hard time keeping a job and just functioning in life due to his severe symptoms. The day that he stopped by, my Dad was refinishing some furniture. Daddy offered to show this man what he was doing. He told me that not only did my Dad show him, but offered to teach him how to refinish and repair furniture. I still don’t know exactly how it all panned out. What I do know is, that over the course of several weeks, this man learned from my Dad. He had meals with my parents, and helped them around the house. It helped calm his nervous system down. My Dad wouldn’t let him have any alcohol at the house, so it cut down on his alcohol consumption. He became my Dad’s friend, and my Dad became his friend and teacher. He told me that my Dad never judged him for appearance, wealth, or behavior. ( I’m sure he was always respectful of my Dad, but I think he meant his ability to function at times.) What really made this story so important to me is that this man told me that my Daddy saved his life. He said that he had planned to end his life that first day that he stopped by. My Dad gave him a purpose, a person, and a feeling of love to return to the next day, the next week and for many months to follow. That was ten years ago. This same man is now helping other veterans who are suffering from PTSD. Of all the things that I’ve known about my Dad accomplishing in his life, this story alone makes me so proud to have call the man my Daddy.

My Dad’s workshop is now going to belong to someone else. My Mom and my Dad have now left this earth. When Daddy passed away suddenly, I was overwhelmed with what to do with EVERYTHING that they had accumulated over the course of their lives. I also had major health crisis of my own to deal with. At first, I was so overwhelmed with everything that I just planned to sell most of the contents. I needed income, and I had to move. I was in the middle of my own personal crisis that changed the way I was living drastically. However, angels were watching over me on many levels. No sales ever came through. I had a LOT of time to think and reflect. I began to write again, and began making decisions about what I want to do with my future. I pulled out some of my Dad’s tools that he’d taught me to use years before. I grabbed wood that we had foraged together in plans of making “something”. I stood at his saw with tears in my eyes and his voice in my ear saying “be careful and create”. The wood and metal jewelry line came from several days of just creating. He made me a spoon ring when I was around nine or ten. I still wear it. Over the years, we’ve collected quite a bit of old silverware. The silverware creations are from those collections, memories and some previous creations. Daddy loved oak wood and old barn wood. There is enough oak and old barn wood to keep me busy for a long time. He loved making bread bowls and they have been among some of my first samples. In a nutshell, I am taking his tools, his lessons, his craft, and his legacy with me. I will be in a different location, but his spirit will always be with me, guiding me and giving me some gentle nudges along the way.

In writing this Blog Post, I’m realizing how raw my emotions still are. I’m still healing physically myself at a much slower pace than I’m happy about. I’m also healing emotionally. Caring for my Dad in Hospice at home did not prepare me for him being gone. For the here and now, The Workshop is becoming a slow reality. The tools are ready to set up, the supplies are still being sorted and collected. The overall vision for the workshop is in place. Furniture repurposing, creating and building will be highlighted. Milk paint and refinishing classes will be begin by video and on-site. Lessons on blending colors and textures will be taught. Home decor will be an on-going creation process with various materials. Reupholstery classes will be offered ( My angel Momma will be over-seeing those). My jewelry making is evolving, and is healing my soul; it is therapy and it will continue. The creations will be sold through The vision board is still open on what else will actually evolve. The one thing that is set in stone is that The Workshop will be a place for creativity, openness, healing and love. It will be run without judgement and harsh words. The Workshop will honor my Daddy in how he carried out his life ~ in the words of my Dad’s friend Mr. Ray Lewis, “ Linwood Whichard liked to fix the broken. He liked to work on what other people gave up on. He like to help fix things, but he really liked helping people fix themselves.” That much of my Dad’s legacy is where I truly hope that I can fill those shoes just a tiny bit. I hope that his spirit is smiling down on these plans, and that he continues to travel along, guide, make me laugh and lend his spirit to a new location. Please come visit.

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