Tool Time With Dad

I walk in the front door, and Dad beckons me to come with him to pull in an eight-foot ladder from the garage.  I’m thinking, he’s not really gonna climb this thing, is he?  He needed the kitchen clock changed for day light saving time.  He has two bad hips.  One hip was replaced about fifteen years ago, and needs to be replaced, again.  The man can barely walk, how is he going to climb this ladder?  But, he won’t let me climb it, and I hold the ladder while he makes several attempts to lift his semi-good leg and foot up to the first rung on the ladder. Then, he has to somehow get the leg with the very bad hip up to the second rung. He is finally able to steady himself enough to reach for the clock.  In complete frustration he grabs the clock off the wall, and the nail it is hanging on flies out of the hole.  I manage to find it in the sink below, hand it back to him, while trying as hard as I can to keep a straight face, and he makes about ten attempts to get the blasted nail back into the hole. He hangs onto the ladder for dear life, fumbles with the clock while trying to hold onto the shaky old ladder, changes the time, and by the Grace of God slams the clock back on the wall on the first try!

“Don’t you have a step stool?” I ask.

“Step stools are too shaky when I stand on them, this works better.”

I realize there is an intermittent beeping sound coming from somewhere nearby.  It is the smoke alarm chirping for the battery to be changed.  Dad jerks his head and wobbles around and points up to the smoke alarm in the living room.  Now, I fully realize why we are using an eight-foot ladder in the house.  The living room has a vaulted ceiling, and there the damn thing is, about fifteen feet up on the wall.  I flat-out refuse to let him climb up there, which means I have to climb the ladder to the very top and stretch myself completely full length to get my fingers anywhere near the alarm.  Dad’s awkwardly holding the ladder, the ladder is shaking, my heart of fear is practically bursting out of my chest, and I am able to finally pull the alarm off the wall.  I climb down, we replace the batteries, and then I have to climb back up there!

This is what it is like to walk into the door of my parents’ house.  There is sure to be the first of many tasks offered to you within the first five minutes of your arrival.  Oh, by the way, “Hi, Mom!”

The scene I have painted sounds comical and silly, but the truth is, I know how degrading it must be for my dad to ask his daughter to help him with these menial tasks, and the fact that he does is a humbling experience for both of us.  My dad is a proud man.  I have met very few men who were as strong and capable as my father when he was in his prime.  The man could fix anything, and I mean anything.  He is a craftsman by trade, he has collected and used tools all his life, built and repaired most anything you can imagine, and now changing the time on a clock or replacing the batteries in a smoke alarm has become an insurmountable challenge.

So, now when I come home, I expect the unexpected and I cherish moments like these with a grin.  My dad would never have respected me enough to ask me for help when I was a kid.  Me, being a ‘girl’ for one, and the fact that I had three brothers who could be asked before having to ‘settle’ for my help.  Now, he is my number one fan!

Ok, back to work.  Dad has a drain to unclog and a huge wrench in his hand…

Author Notes

8 Comments for “Tool Time With Dad”

reigny dai


Yours is a well-written piece that shows the frailty any one of us may encounter in later years. A dad depending on a daughter or asking for help is an adjustment for many fathers and their girls, but it’s also an opportunity for growth as individuals and for two people to grow closer together. Your dad and you seem to be adjusting to this opportunity.

Mary Cooney-Glazer


Really enjoyed this Rebecca. Often hold the ladder for my hubby who has no fear of heights. We are Mr. & Ms. Fixit a lot, and your story catches the spirit of repairs with good humor & understanding. Nicely done. Mary

Tim Hillebrant


Hi Becky,

Another very enjoyable piece. I like these windows into life with your dad. In many ways, your dad reminds me of mine. While he was no craftsman by trade, woodworking and gardening were his hobbies, and he’d do the mechanic work under the car or the plumbing under the sink if he needed to. Most of that stuff he’s just blessed to be able to figure out intuitively. I look at it, and it’s all Greek to me.
Now adays, my dad still gardens, and works in his shop, but not nearly like he used to. He’s slower now, harder of hearing, and uses a cane when he walks due to balance issues arising from his cervical stenosis.
Still, he gets things done, and for that among many other things, I love him.
Thanks for reminding me of this, and those times when I was able to help him do the things we did around the house and yard.



I like how you say your dad “works in his shop”. That is how we refer to Dad, and where he is most of the time…lol I have been helping my dad plant his garden every year now. He still wants a massive vegetable garden, but he can barely walk with both his hips being bad. Glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂



Very very funny, Becky. I literally lol’d.

Two notes:

  1. grace of God. <– I believe Grace is capitalized in this context

  2. Me, being a “girl” for one, and the fact that I had three brothers who could be asked before having to “settle” for my help. <– “girl” and “settle” should probably be in single quotes to distinguish it from the dialog in the piece.


Yep, will change the quotation marks to single. I have no idea about grace of God or Grace of God. Is that because it is a widely used expression? Just wondering…

Truly appreciate your edit suggestions! Thanks, Doug. 🙂

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