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Challenge: My Dad Hero

Dad's Greatest Advice: Get Your Hands Dirty

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My father's hands were always calloused – filthy from the day’s work. His meal ticket wasn't a college degree but back-breaking labor.

In all of my life, I have never seen anyone work harder.

Which is why he readily accepts projects during visits to our home. This past December he removed rotten wood and adhesive from our front steps and completely replaced our laundry room flooring. In the process, he ruined a well-used long-sleeved T-shirt with Virginia Tech, my alma mater, written across it.

My father’s own four-year plan had ended prematurely, and he didn’t finish college.

I contemplate his talents often, and I wish I had paid more attention. He can run wire, resolve plumbing issues, and crawl under an old house with an air of youth.

Recently, my husband and I have taken on projects of our own – all those little updates left undone when we purchased our first home. At that time, I was eight months pregnant. It was also July in the Deep South.

Our oldest is now three-and-a-half. It was time.

In the last month, we repainted three rooms, stripped wallpaper, and spackled countless holes. And – somewhere in the fatigue – I found a surprising peace.

I think we’ve all forgotten how to use our hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that my life’s work extends beyond paintbrush strokes (I commercially painted for two summers – never again). But there was something cathartic about creating with my hands. In the silent hours of night – while those who are sane were asleep – I used every muscle to improve our home.

And I wore my father’s stained T-shirt.

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