The countdown is on. In a few short hours, garage floors across the globe will be littered with the greasy rear ends of Dads assembling every manner of contraption the toy company geniuses can conceive. Christmas Eve is unique in its power to create an experience shared by so many at the exact same time. Since the dawn of time or at least the invention of Santa Claus, Dads have been waiting for the kids to fall asleep to trek into the garage or shed or backyard to open boxes and spread out pieces and read vague directions in dim light and desperation.
Screws are turned. Fingers are pinched. Pieces are lost. Beer and blood are spilled. This is how it goes every year in countless man-caves around the world. It is a special time to be a Dad. Understanding that for once, these efforts will be appreciated; Christmas morning will come and the kids will be excited. Their excitement may merely be an extension of the Dads’ joyful anticipation. A giddy, yet still manly, energy occupies the wee hours of Christmas Eve. Imagining surprised kids and their grateful exclamations of shock and joy keeps Dads up late. The kids do not disappoint. The swearing and smiling and sweating and searching for that single, yet vital, little nut that rolled away someplace is worth it come Christmas morning when the wrapping paper starts flying.
The non-exclusive club of Christmas Dads is a great organization to belong to. I recall my own initiation several years ago. It involved a complicated battery powered tractor and a trike. I spent several hours bent over or leaning on raw knees constructing these treasures which now reside rusty and broken from use and abuse and being left outside in the rain. I don’t care too much about that though, because that night I joined the club. It is the club that my Dad and Grandpa and Uncles were members of. The men I loved and admired most twisted screwdrivers and got out the “magnet on a stick” to retrieve the lost screw from under the work bench for me. This recognition made me feel good and closer to them than perhaps I ever had before. Being a Dad and understanding what this means makes it easier to understand many things about my own Dad that I never did before. I am glad I know these things. My life would be less without appreciating his sacrifice and efforts to bring a smile to my face on Christmas morning.
So, this Christmas Eve I will renew my membership in the club. I will follow the directions step by onerous step. I will peel off layers as I heat up and I will stretch my sore back. I will say, “No, thanks” when my wife asks if I need any help. She will close the door and walk away relieved, as the ream of paper from the instructions and the too-many-to-count pieces sprawled across the concrete floor can be overwhelming. I won’t mind. This is my time to be a good Dad and I will be my absolute best at the false dawn when the final bolt is tightened and the last decal goes on. It is a special time and I will pay my dues to remain in the club.
In the morning, I will sit red-eyed and oily, smelling like anti-freeze and lawn fertilizer. I will have a cup of coffee in my hand and a grin on my face. I will fake surprise at the gifts I assembled and I will be pleased. When my seven year old daughter asks why I have band aids on three fingers, I will produce a beautiful little lie to her pretty little face. And when she follows up with, “Does it hurt?” I will reply, “Not much, sweetheart, not much.” And this won’t be a lie. I’ll be too happy to hurt.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who just published his first book called "A Feel Good Life" (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]