My father helped me tile my bathroom walls today. (Correction: I helped my father tile my bathroom walls.) We worked in harmony, united on the task at hand and when he said, “Give me that thing over there,” I knew which thing he meant because I would anticipate his moves. I can’t recall the last time my dad and I had one-on-one time – hours – just the two of us, music playing in the background, working on making something beautiful. He stood at the helm of the ship as Captain, and I was his sturdy, well-trained second mate.
I passed the tiles, the mastic, the spacers and he did the official and permanent work of placing them onto the wall. He operated the tile saw, proudly showing off his craftsmanship after ever piece. “Do you see how thin this machine can slice? Look at this precision!” I marveled at each sliver and made a neat pile of baby tiles for if they’d come in handy later.
I am 42 years old, my father is 67 and today I could have been 10 years old, him 35. Only he was a calmer, kinder, softer version and I was a more forgiving, grateful daughter.
“Of course you knew exactly what he wanted,” my husband said, after I bragged about our ability to work well together, “You are him!”
It’s interesting to see so much of myself in my father – or I guess it’s more of how much of him I see in me. As I get older, my wrinkles mimic his and often my reflection startles me by the uncanny resemblance.
The father-daughter relationship is a complicated, intricately woven web formed over a lifetime of moments, experiences, interactions, and mistakes. Today I watched my dad in awe, the ever strong, can-do-everything man standing comfortably in the spotlight I’ve always reserved for him. Not only was he able to tile my wall, but also rip out a rusted toilet, rewire my electricity, and level a floor – all while dancing along to Diego’s Umbrella with me.