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The Tool Shed
Dad creeps slowly down the steps into our basement workshop, one of his and my favorite places to spend our time. This is where we can fully embrace our "manly man-ness" together. To prove it, Dad is wearing overalls, Timberlands, and has quite a bit of overgrown stubble on his chin that he has purposely chosen to ignore this Saturday morning.
Dad is an obvious country man at heart, though he chose to stop speaking like one since he met my mother. Growing up in New Jersey, he always naturally kept up that tuff-gruff, I'm-a-man persona. The beard thing was a part of this, of course, but he told me he really kept it up to look like Bruce Springsteen.
"So Dad, what exactly are we building today?" I ask as he makes his way down our rickety basement stairs. He grunts, ignoring my question as he acknowledges our surroundings. Our basement, unlike most, is not caked in cobwebs, dust and soot, but instead is generally pretty clean. You can even see the burgundy color of the wooden steps, which until I attended my friend Jimmy's bar-mitzvah (yes--in his basement), I didn't realize was an enviable feat.
But Dad isn't grunting at the shine of the wood, he's grunting at the very unorganized set of tools we've been collecting down here (since I was 7, which then I could only look at, not touch). I had always figured Dad appreciated this, being that this was the only quadrant of the house that wasn't constantly kept tidy. (We do live with 4 females after all.) So I took pride in the disheveled look of our tools and I thought Dad did as well. Apparently not. "Could we not actually build anything today dad, and maybe just break things apart?" I ask. I laugh quietly to myself at how impulsively destructive that idea sounds-0but we're initiating our inner man here, so why not? "I've been really frustrated recently, Dad; mainly since I'm pretty sure I bombed all my finals. So I figured that would be a fun way to let off some steam, you know?"
Silence from Dad. He just kinda sways from his right to left foot, blankly staring into space, and barely listening to anything I say. I sigh. This, for some non-apparent reason, does catch his attention. "You know, sport, why don't we just skip woodworking today? I'm just pretty worn out from the week, alright?"
"Uh, yeah, no problem, Dad," I reply, with a purposefully good amount of disappointment in my voice. He doesn't seem to notice this either as he walks back up the stairs, leaving our fortress of manly bonding behind. He must have other things on his mind.
The next morning, our normal pancakes-for-Sunday-breakfast routine doesn't commence. Instead we (being my 3 sisters and I) are brought to the living room, with Mom and Dad sitting on the couch across from us.
Mom hesitates at first, but finally sighs and announces: "So, your father and I are getting a divorce." I look over at my 3 younger sisters, hoping they don't burst into tears, because if they do, I definitely will. But they simply look confused, their blue eyes deep pools of unhappy surprise. I stare angrily at Dad especially. I don't blame Mom for this; she's not the man of the family. But apparently neither is he.
"How, why, how could you do this? Why are you splitting our special little almost perfect family apart!?"
"Hey now, Michael, don't you dare go blaming this whole thing on me. This was all your mothers do-" Dad turns to my sisters, saying in a kinder tone of voice: "I mean, a decision made equally by both you mother and I."
"Oh now that's a load of bull!" I shout, angrily arising from the couch. "Last time I checked, divorce isn't the manly thing to do, Dad!" "What is all this man talk about, son? What, are you trying to prove something to me? Look, if you're gay, you're gay. It doesn't make you any less of a man. I mean-" Mom cuts in: "What? Michael, why didn't you tell me?"
"What, no, what are you talking about!? I'm not gay, alright? What are you, like Trying to sway the accusations away from yourself now Dad?. 'Cause its not going to work. God."
I sit back down on the couch and let my hands sink into my waiting palms. I begin to feel the urge to grab a saw from the basement and carefully cut my heart out with it, but of course I don't because Dad would say: "Now son, thats no way to use a tool."
And I would reply "No Dad, your right. Instead you used it to slice apart your relationship with the mother of your children. Way to be a manly man."