I had an idea. A really wonderful, excellent idea. And, because it was my idea, I didn't trouble myself with pesky details like "cost" or "time" or "difficulty." Instead, while my idea was still a tiny embryo, I called my father and asked, "Would you be interested in building a playhouse for the boys?"
And just like that, the embryo took growth hormones and became my father's BIG ASS BABY.
We've had two trips to Lowe's so far. Our backyard is scattered with sawhorses, lumber, and nails. Dad wakes up with the sun, puts on his trusty tool belt, and works in the July heat, hammering, sawing, pounding, and marking. He does this until he grows weary. This becomes apparent when he starts hammering nails the wrong way, or memorably, sawing the cord off of his just-purchased circular saw.
After a break, a beer, and a snooze on the couch while "watching" Rawhide, he's back outside, ready for more construction fun. The man is a machine. As he sweats in the sun, my mom, the boys and I stand on the deck, drinking water and occasionally asking if he needs anything.
"See, son," I say to Owen, "this is what it would be like to work for the government."
Part of my dad's urgency is that he has a deadline. He lives in Colorado, and needs to complete the job while he's here. The other reason he is working so hard is because it is an act of love.
My father is a quiet man, a man that lights up the most when talking about politics (a topic I avoid most strenuously when I'm around him), The Simpsons, and Habitat for Humanity. Habitat has become his retirement job and joy. In addition to working at the building sites as often as possible, Dad assists with fund-raising and computer work for the organization. He's traveled to the Gulf Coast to build new houses for the victims of the various hurricanes.
In theory, Habitat helps the people who need cost-effective housing. However, I think that it helps my father just as much. My mother showed me a picture of Dad. He's next to a section of an unfinished house. The workers wrote on the framing and insulation, which would later be covered with drywall. These are the wishes and prayers, built into the house with as much care as the screws and nails.
Dad chose to quote Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God."
And really, that's it. To love another person--by using the talents you've been given---is allowing that divinity, that spirit, to become as obvious and concrete as cleanly-cut planks of wood.
My father doesn't always know how to play with the boys. But, there's no doubt that he loves them. Every time that they play in that playhouse, they will know that their Grandpa Ed built it for them. As for me? I will look at that playhouse and see the face of God.