Today, I stared at the old door that led into the old garage. The door desperately needed to be fixed. It was covered with dead vines, 19 layers of cracked and peeling paint, the remains of psychedelic wallpaper and a heavy dose of dirt. The hinges were rusted and the bottom of the door had become unglued and the joints were separating. The door was a mess. A rational person would have thrown it out and bought a new door. Unfortunately, the door became a personal subject.
I was taken over by the ghost of my father, who would have never replaced the door. I could hear his voice from a distant past demanding, “Paint the shit out of the door and be done with it.” While I stood there, arms crossed, staring at the door, I imagined what my dad would have done. He would have beaten the door into submission with a hammer, knocking the joints back together by force (re-gluing would have never crossed his mind), and then he would have slathered the door with enough paint to hold the wood together for a couple of more years. The whole job would have taken a violent six minutes. I had been staring at the door longer than that, thinking whether it would have been better to take apart the door and re-glue it with long wood clamps and meticulously scrape off all the loose paint, hand sand the the rough spots, add a new coat of primer before finally painting it — probably a 38 hour job.On this day, dad would have been proud. I grabbed a fat hammer and knocked the door silly before pouring a gallon of latex all over it. I felt both wrong and a sense of accomplishment.
I did not write this story to teach others about how to temporarily fix garbage, but rather how to write about personal subjects. For me, it is hard to write about my father. He was charming and entertaining. He was also a jerk. I have not written about him in a long time because I am never sure how to approach him as a character or as a person. How do I honestly present him to a reader who has no emotional attachment to his story like I do? As much as I knew him, he was both a hero and a villain and my feelings about him change from moment to moment. However, looking at how he solved problems like broken doors is a good start, and maybe because his actions with small projects might speak to how he led his life.
While I may not always know how to write about personal subjects, I have a pretty good idea how dad would write a personally hard story. He would “hammer the fucker together” and “paint the shit out of it – then be done with it.”