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Mr. Fix-it: It all leads back to Dad
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My wife and I decided to put a ceiling fan in our bedroom.

No big deal. She picked it out, and I installed it. We marked where we wanted it to hang, I found a corresponding ceiling joist and installed a secure mounting box. I ran the wire, located a switch on the wall, and connected it to a protected circuit. Of course it works.

Recently we bought a new dishwasher. When the new appliance was delivered, I installed it. It came with something called a "Dishwasher Installation Kit," or some such thing. This offensive little package contained everything that someone with no common sense would think was required to install a dishwasher. It contained two water inlet hoses, a half-dozen brass fittings, an extension cord, a discharge tube, and some wire nuts. I threw the appalling package over my shoulder in disgust, offering mild curses to anyone within earshot and linking things like "inexpensive" and "Southeast Asia" in the same sentence.

Dishwashers are frighteningly simple. Only one inlet hose is required, for hot water - no one ever uses cold water to wash dishes. Not one of the six fittings that came with the new dishwasher actually fit the universal connector of my hot water line, so I robbed the brass fitting off the old dishwasher. Next, I connected the discharge tube to the sewer. The 35-year-old hose from my old appliance was clearly better than the brand new one, so I used it and tossed the other like a coiled snake. Finally, electricity is required. Who on earth would ever use an extension cord? I hard-wired the appliance directly to its own protected circuit, slid it into the cabinetry, and secured it. I then turned on the water, flipped the breaker, and pushed a button on the console. Of course it worked. Of course it did not leak.

At about that time my wife came home. I proudly displayed my handiwork. She was impressed. Then, to the chagrin of militant feminism everywhere she turned to me and said, "You know, I lived with my brother for awhile. He could repair just about anything, too. What is it about guys? Are you just born with the ability to fix things?"

We laughed, but the statement got me thinking. These two examples but scratch the surface of the knowledge I disregard as "Common Sense." Where exactly, did I learn such things? When did I first know, with certainty, the difference between a ground, neutral, and hot wire? How do I know that a brass fitting gets a coat of Teflon, and then tightened - not torqued, lest I strip the threads?

Many people do not get the chance to appreciate, until it is too late, just how much it means to have a father in their life. There are many times - this one included - that I look back on my life and take stock of all that I have gleaned from the man I call Dad. I can't imagine going through life without such a figure to look up to.

My siblings and I were never put into daycare. We did not sit through preschool. I was not raised by strangers. My childhood was spent shadowing my Dad. At the earliest age I spent most of my time with him, following him around the farm and "helping" with menial tasks. I never had to search for something to do.

I would shadow him, and he would put me to work. I even "helped" by sitting on his lap and pushing buttons on the computer when he told me to. Since I grew up on a farm, there were always things to be cleaned, repaired, or maintained. I learned the value of order and neatness. I learned how to take care of what I have. I helped him oil and grease the machinery "so it would last." I don't remember when, specifically - perhaps it was the culmination of countless incidents - but he explained how basic machinery operates. "This is a pivot point, (or a bearing) so there will be a grease zerk there."

I learned how to care for, and respect, animals. I saw in my dad (and still do) an appreciation for life. There can be inherited a sense of vitality from working outside, and from him, I learned to grasp this admiration. I tire of hearing people complain of growing older, and the ailments associated therein. My dad only talks of what we're going to do next, and I love that.

I am grateful that I have reached a point in my relationship with my father, where we learn, and gain, from each other. On my recommendation, he learned scuba diving, and got certified. We have since been to Australia, Belize, and Costa Rica together. He bought a motorcycle, and together we rode to Alaska. Currently we are finishing a restoration on an airplane, which we will fly to San Diego to visit my brother.

How many sons can look back and cherish memories as I do, with my dad?

I started out with a couple tongue-in-cheek anecdotes of how my Dad continues to help me through life. He does, and always will. Not mentioned but equally prevalent is his sense of dedication, work ethic, careful frugality, but a warm desire to embrace life and live to the fullest. I grew up with a father who is a figure of strength, loyalty and order.

He was, and is, everything that a dad should be, and not a day goes by where I am not grateful that I can tell him so myself, to his face.

- Dan Wegmueller of Monroe writes a column for the Times each Monday. He can be reached at