Thursday, March 25, 2010

The last bird house

My wife's dad, Garald, was a big strapping man. When I describe him as a big man I mean that he was tall and wide. He was strong and agile. He could lift 100 lbs without seeming to strain a muscle until the day he died at age 75. He could stand on the edge of a cement curb and lay his palms flat on the asphalt street 4 inch below the bottom of his feet. I was always in awe of is physical abilities. I was also very careful not to make him to mad. He was a gentle man. I never saw him life a hand in anger.
However, he could intimidate you with his eyes and his chin. When he got angry his wide chiseled chin would thrust forward within inches of your face and his blues would grab you and paralyze you. Then he would let you know verbally what he was upset about.
Once he had his say he would cool down a little and back away. He never physically or verbally threatened you with any harm. He did not need to. He had you under control with his eyes and his chin.
Garald was very intelligent and sure of himself. He worked as foreman for a city electric company and was very proud of what they had accomplished. Every time we went for a ride we heard about all the electric lines in the city and how they were put in. Even though we heard most of the stories over and over they were actually informative and interesting.
Garald was very sure of himself and not afraid to do anything. He could build or fix anything had to. He was exceptional with electronics and loved the world of CB radio. He went by the handle of "Stump Jumper" because he began his electrical career as a pole climber. A pole climber is the guy that strings and repairs the electrical wires. He would sit by his CB radio for hours talking to the truckers that ran up and down I-5 on the California coast.
Garald retired from his city job at 60 years of age and had a stroke at the age of 68. If there is any luck when you have a stroke Garald had it. He had a left hemisphere stroke which affected his mind more than his physical ability. He never lost control of his limbs and he recovered from his minor speech problems very quickly. However his mind was affected in a strange way.
It took him years to recover from how it affected his mind. Garald lost the ability to believe in himself. He was afraid to do anything for fear that it would cause a fire and he was afraid that everything he did before his stroke would cause a fire. He had to have someone check the furnace at least once a month. He would have had it checked every day if his wife, Mary, would have allowed it.
He would not have anything to do with electricity or radio because of his fear of causing a fire. He had lost all ability to fix anything. Mary kept trying to find something that he would do. She tried all sorts of hobbies but he was afraid to try anything. Finally a minor miracle occurred. Mary brought home a bird house kit and put it on the kitchen sink. Before she had a chance to give it to him he picked it up. Took it to his small work shed in the back yard and put it together. However it did not happen as q quick as I have written it. It took him 3 hours but he did it. I don't think I have ever seen a happier man. The next day he painted it. Painting it took him all day long. It was the ugliest and poorest built birdhouse that I ever saw.
From then on Garald build bird houses. He never got any better at building them or painting them but he loved it. He and Mary had bird houses everywhere. They were sitting inside the house and hanging outside the house. He would build a bird house, paint it and then spend hours and sometimes days figuring out where to put it. He was never happy with where his houses were. He was always changing moving them and when he made another one he just add more time to his bird house placement time.
I never counted all the bird houses but I am sure he had at least one hundred of them when he passed away. After he passed away the bird houses started falling apart. I asked Mary if she wanted me to fix them and she no. The birdhouses had been good for Garald but there were way too many of them.
One by one they fell apart and were dismissed to the trash but surprisingly the one that I thought was the ugliest and the poorest built hung around to the very last. In fact it was that last one to fall apart.
Today, seven years after Garald's death and twelve years after he cobbled it together, it finally fell apart and his first birdhouse fell from the eave where he had placed it. Mary picked it up and said that it was the only one that he hadn't moved once he had put it up.
She put it in the trash and never said another word about it. The last bird house was gone.

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