This kinda hits home. My father had a strong interest in woodworking,
and tried many a project. His designs were't the best, and his joinery
while strong, wasn't artistic.
However, he loved woodwork and he always felt very proud of all his
projects many which are still in use today.
When I started out in construction we built him a small shop, with a
radio for the Cowboys games, and a pot bellied stove for those
occasionally cold south Texas winters. Later in life he loved piddling
with that damn stove more than doing any kind of woodwork.
As my skills zoomed past his (me: 10 hours a day of woodwork, 5 days a
week; him: weekends when available and not too hot outside) he was less
anxious to do anything together. After a while, he became self
conscious of his self taught skills, and
wouldn't build anything without telling me "hell, I just threw this
together for your mother" and things like that. There was no reason
for the excuses... his work was fine. And considering the simple tools
he worked with (no table saw, no drill press, no router, a hard maple
miter box with a back saw, no sanding station, not even a really good
pair of horses because they took too much material) he did quite well.
Since he never really the type to try anything new and exciting and was
self conscious of HIS perceived lack of skills he drifted away from
woodworking. I believe this happens with any hobby, and he fell into a
slump with it. He needed a year or two of absence before rediscovering
his love of sawdust.
He was distracted by many things, most he cannot remember now. Sunday
football, too hot in the shop, nothing he really wanted to build... on
The he found out he had cancer. Depression. His generation (he is 80
now) looked at that as a death sentence. However, after 5 years of
manic depression and mild cancer treatment, he lived. Where did those
five years go? Unknown.
Then, at 59, his first stroke. At 61, a heart attack. Granted early
retirement due to disability at 62. With rest and no work pressure his
health came back pretty well. With no work, he vowed to start some of
those projects he had always talked about.
But too many habits of procrastination had already cemented themselves
to his life. For many and varied reasons he never quite got started on
any of those projects. Sometime at age 65 he had another stroke, and
that resilient sombitch came out of it with only a little paralysis.
This time though, he decided to quit smoking.
He started to make a few little weekend type projects, and was starting
to have some fun. He began to think of making a new set of shelves, a
new blanket chest, and some flower boxes. Now he was really getting
Then another stroke. Followed by a "mini-stroke".
Then partial paralysis. Loss of feeling in hands, and has to drag his
left leg when he moves.
For about twelve years now, he has been unable to work with any kind of
tools, and in the last two years has been unable to get to the shop and
couldn't do anything if he could. Now, like a kid that has been told
he cannot have a certain video game, that is all he talks about. Oh
how he wishes now he hadn't wasted all that time in front of the TV on
Sunday watching the games... why didn't he start those big projects
when he retired... many questions that are eating him alive now.
So, as I am approaching the 1/2 century mark, I am acutely aware of the
fact that his first stroke and realistically the beginning of the end
of his only hobby was only 10 years away from my current age. And the
cruel fact that he has had another 20 years to sit and look at his idle
tools has not escaped me.
When I go to the woodturning meeting on Thursday, I always say a silent
thanks to God for the love of my life, as he ex-president of our club
lost his wife to cancer last year. She was 52, and was diagnosed with
stage 4 lung cancer (never smoked a day in her life) and was gone in
less than six months. He is so lost now, it makes me feel like I
should hug him every time I see him.
So... even though I do woodwork professionally, I still look at shop
time as a gift. My hands do not shake, my eyes still see details (with
glasses) and I try new techniques all the time.
Enjoy what you have, it is gone too soon to waste the time you are
And Lew, my thoughts and prayers are with your friend.