by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 7/1996
The cellar was piled with things my father had discarded, but just couldn’t bear to throw away. Dad’s anniversary was last week, and once again I pause to reflect on how different my life is without. 12 years have passed since he lost his terrible battle with cancer. And as I grew older I find myself missing him.
For some reason, it was here in my grandmother’s house, particularly in this cellar, that I remember him most. Maybe that’s because there are so many little reminders of his presence, so many things he left behind.
Over in one corner are for sturdy railings he built before he got sick. He plan was to replace the old, worn out railings on the second floor porch with these. I blew some dust off them and thought about how unfair life can be. Dad had so many plans, so many dreams…
Reaching into my pocket for my keys I realized this was a perfect place to feel gloomy. Even though I kept the cellar fairly clean it was still cold, damp, dusty and full of cobwebs. As I opened the little closet where we kept the tools and paint, I shined the flashlight around. He never threw anything out! There was a full bucket of screws, nails, doorknobs, sockets, cords, wires, hinges, and all sorts of other little objects.
I can think of at least a dozen times when we need something: a screw, a special bull or whatever, and he’d say, “You don’t need to buy one. I’m sure we’ve got one downstairs.”
He saved my grandmother so much money doing things like that.
I pull down the toolbox which was heavy and dented. I recalled the first time it occurred to me that all this stuff was really mine now and the tears I shed then.
After dad got sick, I took over for him at man has being the “handyman” and doing whatever had to be done to keep the place standing. Occasionally he’d asked me if everything was neat and put away. It always was. I made sure. I was keeping things need until he would be healthy again.
He and I did so much together down here. Over by the water heater is a pipe we welded back together. You can still see our initials carved in the cement near the water shut off. On the wall he nailed up some of his old license plates. He loved his cars. A small picture of the Sacred Heart is tucked behind a beam. I was going to remove it, but he said he wanted something religious in every room in the house.
As I spotted the oil drum, I walked over to check how much oil we had left. This was another thing he reminded me to do often. I shined the light on the gauge: FULL.
I shook my head again too easy to get lost in emotions down here I remembered the reason I came down here, and sure enough Dad had some little paintbrushes tucked away. Once again, he’d saved us money. I only wish I could’ve told him.
Update, 2015: Back in 1995, after Nana passed away, and after we sold her house, I made sure to retrieve that picture of the Sacred Heart from that corner of the cellar. To this day, it is affixed to a corner in my cellar. I think that Dad would approve.