On the Impermanence of Tools

My dad raised me in a toolbox.
His answer to every question or trouble
was the right tool.

We softened our tough baseball gloves, with oil.
We soaped car windows with massive sponges.
We painted over boredom with acrylic brushstrokes.
We pushed tomatoes through a sieve to catch the seeds.

As I grew older, he gave me my own tools —
a miniature watercolor kit,
a screwdriver and hammer when I moved out of the house,
a loved kitchen knife when I became a cook.

One day when I was inconsolably upset,
I went to my dada for help,
He didn’t press me to tell him what was wrong,
he just handed me a trowel, smiled, and said

“Go outside. Dig a hole. You’ll feel better.”

I didn’t know if I was supposed to bury my sadness
or if touching soft soil was meant to calm me,
but I did feel better.

Years later, I still dig holes when I am sad
and my dad still offers me
tools for my travels
but in the meantime
I have uncovered this truth —

that what I fear most is the day
I must dig a hole
for him,
when his tools will lose their warm hands.

There will be no hole I can dig large enough
to hold such sadness;
He will have left behind no tool with which
to cut through that grief.

Originally published in What We Were Born For.