Restless Into That Night

He knew better, as he always did – he knew there were better tools to use and better materials, and better methods. My dad made that bunkbed with a circular saw and a chisel because that’s what he had. He used the saw to cut many close slits and then cleaned out a wide mortice with the chisel, but he knew there were better ways, knew the precision of his cuts would not satisfy any master craftsman.

And the joints were not as tight as they should have been for the design he thought up, and the wood was too soft, so the bed creaked and moved and gave a little, and over time a little more. It did not age well, structurally; and the reinforcing I tried to add could not save it.

Age did give it beauty. I remember him particularly asking the clerk in the store how the varnish would age and whether it would develop the deep amber tones in the wood that he wanted. The clerk didn’t know; even then they had stopped staffing hardware stores with people who know better. But he got what he wanted. It mellowed into a warm tone of a late summer peach flesh, or a thin veil of honey.

For a while it was my bed. I left, and I came back, and bed still served; it survived a move. But then another boy moved out, and then another, and there was no need for a bunkbed in that room. They tried to move it again, to keep it useful, but the joints had come too loose and you could not be putting one person’s weight above another with that bed any more.

So it was scrap wood. That bunk bed was not the very last thing my father built, but it was the last thing I remember him building – creating with an art and skill I could not guess a thing new and marvelous. He got older and built less, and I got older and built more, and I understood better how he made things, and why he was always angry when he made things – because he always knew better. I as a child saw what he did make – a glorious bunk bed from pine board – and he as man saw what he did not make: a bunk bed that would last for generations.

They asked me to cut it up. It was not my idea. I didn’t know the bunk bed had been scrapped or needed to be scrapped. They wanted me to make a gate to a chicken run to replace the one I had already made, poorly (not made, well!) and they wanted me to use the scrap wood to do it – the wood from the last thing my father ever made. Oh, he was only a man, but why mock him? He knew better.

One Comment on "Restless Into That Night"

  • I laid dibs on the plywood so the grandchildren will get to spend their sleepless night tossing upon such temporary slabs. At least one of them will get the chance to look up at the streaked wood color suspended above their head.

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