My Father’s Gift

It is Father’s Day this weekend and I have been thinking of my dad a lot lately. Not because of the day, but because of an impending family event and a very old gift from my father. My dad died in 1989. Yet, I still feel his presence and it is more so recently.

A few weeks ago my oldest daughter took the cradle out of her storage closet and readied it for yet another baby. Not her baby but her baby’s baby. It’s hard to believe my oldest grandchild is going to be a dad, my daughter and son-in-law grandparents, and Martin and me great grandparents. The cradle has held five of our six grandchildren. Made by my father in 1975, it was a gift to Martin and me for the birth of our youngest daughter.

A cradle for the generations

A cradle for the generations

My dad’s hobby was woodworking. It sustained him in his retirement years. Oh, he also loved to fish and garden. But I believe he loved working with wood the best. He enjoyed taking a plain board and finding a rocking horse or cradle or cabinet or a cutting board in it. Woodworking fed his creative side.

He built doll cradles and cribs and high chairs for his granddaughters. There was the rocking elephant for my oldest daughter. He created small colonial looking hutches and pig shaped cutting boards for our homes. He also loved to whistle a tune, so we often heard him happily whistling in his workshop as he lovingly cut and sawed, sanded and smoothed the wood into his latest work of art. Then, my mother would stain or paint whatever he fashioned from the wood, adding her talents to the final product.

Because of the work, my dad’s hands were often rough with a broken nail or two. Sometimes, sawdust stuck to his clothing or shoes. If we ventured into his sanctum, we were admonished not to get in the way, but to “stand back and watch the mule drink.” After all, there were electric saws and sharp blades to be found. Then, he’d chuckle, the dimples of his cheeks taking form on either side of his crooked smile, his blue eyes sparkling as he bent over his machines and tables.

Dad's name etched in the cradle bottom by my mother

Dad’s name and the year etched in the cradle bottom by my mother

I don’t have any idea if my dad imagined his cradle being so well-used by future generations or if he even imagined future generations. I do know he would smile at the thought. I think he would also be pleased that his great-great grandson, not yet born, is already named Calvin. Calvin’s parents chose the name not knowing it was also the name of my father’s brother.

To be called Cal, this baby is much anticipated and already much loved. It pleases me no end that he will be rocked to sleep in this gift my father made so many, many years ago. Cal will be generation three to be rocked by my father’s hand.

Now, I imagine Cal’s children and perhaps even grandchildren being rocked in it also at some future time as the cradle continues to connect past and future generations. It is but a thing, getting old and worn, one rocker chewed by one of the family dogs, long gone with a lot of other lives. Yet, the cradle carries with it the love of a past generation to a future generation — just as the dimples in my cheeks and my children’s cheeks and my grandchildren’s cheeks. It took a lot of people over a lot of generations to make Cal. And all of those generations will be with him each day in some small, perhaps imperceptible, way.

We have yet to meet Cal, but I already know my father’s journey continues with him and in him. In honor of my father and fathers everywhere, Happy Father’s Day.