The sconce light on the garage had worked itself loose in winter’s gales, and when the finials fell off, the fixture hung by its wiring, daring me to fix it. I did not take the dare for a month, but finally found the courage to attempt. Home from work, ready to face the challenge, I heard Dad call me over. He detailed for me his “mental list” of chores he needed to do, including 1) power thatch the lawn, 2) purchase crabgrass and weed killer fertilizers, and 3) apply the fertilizers. He was clear that this was just his mental list, and that the chores needn’t be done right away, although rain was forecast in two days. He thought he would hire Victor to do the work, but I told him I could and I would do them, and he should save his dwindling funds. I promised to pick up the fertilizers tomorrow on my way home from work, to run the mower over the lawn, and to spread the fertilizer, this last one a quick and easy chore, for me. He wishes keenly that he could do the work, but he just cannot. Maybe, just maybe, I can push him in his wheelchair down the ramps and into the garage and help him transfer to the riding mower (a most difficult machine to mount), just last year a doable and delightful chore for him. I am willing to try. But today I had planned to attempt the sconce light repair, I told him, and walked outside to study the situation for a long spell while attempting to envision a solution. I could salvage the two brackets, though they had twisted a bit in the world. And the wiring remained intact. But I could I find the right bolts, nuts, and washers in Dad’s bolt box? Bolts and nuts can be hard to match for their varying thicknesses and treads. I had scoured the blue metal box as a teenager when learning to fix broken things and to assemble my own creations, and the blue box never left me wanting: I always found the hardware I needed. The box seemed to have a bottomless supply of bolts, screws, washers, and nuts, with an occasional hinge, and I enjoyed the clinking sounds and the rough poking on my fingers as I rummaged. The box seemed a tinkerer’s tiny treasure trove. The box was Dad’s meager inheritance from his father, Owen, who in turn received the box from his father, Nelson—both Owen and Nelson died before I was born. And today, a century after, here I was searching for, and finding, exactly the hardware I needed. “It must be a magic box,” Dad mused as I boasted of my success. Indeed, it must be, in more ways than the supply of random parts, but also the sounds and scratches and smells that carry me back generations to my forefathers, master mechanics in the mines of Utah and Nevada. Truthfully, I was more relieved than proud to have succeeded in remounting the fixture to the brick, and whispered a “thank you” to heaven to have been spared the frustration of very possible defeat. Mom just had to come and see the makeshift repair, and we stood staring at the light with delight. As the sun began to set, I suddenly knew I needed to get Dad out of his recliner, out of the house, and into the cool twilight sun for a “walk”—winter has been so long, and the snow finished melting just yesterday. Dad struggled into his power wheelchair and zoomed away toward the front door and the ramps that followed—I called after him a warning that his new chair is much faster than the loaner—in fact, I had just tested top speed and had frightened myself careening through the house, with G-force sensations similar to flooring a Tesla (well, almost). I gathered Mom into the other chair and pushed her down the driveway and up the sidewalk, Dad tooling independently behind, feeling a new awareness, similar to the pleasure of walking one’s beloved pets—but not quite—and somewhat like the simply joy of walking one’s children around the block—closer, but still a bit off—and I thought how nice it was to be able to take both of my parents for a walk in their wheelchairs at dusk.
The magic box and the sconce light: