Today my family is having its annual reunion/get-together. I'm pretty sure this tradition started in 1985--making this the 26th annual edition. I come from a large family and we used to get together for most of the major holidays, as well as many, many birthdays. As my parents' nine children grew up and started families of their own we started to get together as a group less and less. By 1985 we were only seeing each other about once a year--on Christmas Eve. This made it a good idea to start these annual summer reunions. The tradition has kept on going ever since. One thing that will be different this year is that my Dad won't be there. It will be the first time my whole family has gotten together since his memorial service at the end of April. I'm sure that there will some amount of sadness mixed in with the conversations, swimming, good food and general catching up with everyone.
I've written about my Dad a few times since he passed away in blogs like Movies, Memories and My Dad, The Day My Father Saved a Bully's Life, Dreaming of a Better Life (or Should I Say Death?). I'm now going to write about something he passed onto me--whether he knew it or not. In my childhood home, if you got a sliver while playing outside you would go to my Dad to have the offending object removed. I remember that it was the only time I was allowed into Dad's private "office", a room filled with neat and mysterious-looking objects which was usually locked and off-limits. A visit to that room to have a sliver taken out was a lot like a visit to the doctor's to have a shot. You knew that there would probably be some pain, but that it was for the best.
My Dad was a "tool and die" guy. I've never really understood exactly what that meant, but I did know that Dad had a lot of tools and was very good at using them to repair and create/build all kinds of things around the house. As a kid I think I kind of thought Dad must have had some special training in sliver removal (perhaps even a degree of some sort?). I know that he seemed to be the only one in the house qualified for the job. Even though I had the utmost trust and confidence in his ability, it was still a scary moment when it came time for the sliver to be removed with the help of one or more sharp instruments. Like I said, it was a lot like going to the doctor's to have a shot. There was always a bit of discomfort, but it always passed quickly and didn't seem like such a big deal once it was over. No matter how deep or huge a sliver I had acquired, and no matter how painful it was, I don't recall there ever being a time when Dad couldn't remove it quickly and as painlessly as possible. It was just one of those concrete rules of childhood that if you had a sliver you would go to Dad to remedy the situation.
Now I'm a Dad, and without really noticing when it happened, I suddenly became our household's official sliver remover. Dad never specifically "taught" me how to do it (just as I'm sure he was never formally trained). Apparently you just assume a position of authority about the subject when you become a father. I've seen the same fear in my Little Monster's eyes as I'm about to dig out a sliver that I'm sure Dad saw in my eyes way back when. You just have to go in there, assure the patient that everything will be okay and that it will be over soon. Then you cross your fingers and hope that you can get it out with a pair of tweezers, a needle and a magnifying glass.
Speaking of magnifying glasses, Dad would use one of those jeweler's magnifying visors that you'd wear on your head like a welder's mask. I still need to pick up one of those to complete the look. It adds a certain "professional" look to the scene and makes it appear even more like you know what you're doing.
Ironically enough, The Little Monster got a sliver the night before Dad's memorial service back in April. With everything going on and the fact that it didn't seem to be causing much pain, we didn't deal with it right away. The next morning while I was getting dressed for the memorial service The Little Monster woke up complaining about the sliver. Half-dressed in my suit, I proceeded to assume the role of Sliver Remover. I can't help but think that Dad was watching over me and guiding my hand as I pulled the tiny piece of wood out of The Monster's little hand.