In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to repost this piece I wrote in 2008 about my Dad. He passed away the following year.
I’m an unabashed Daddy’s girl and I’m happy to admit it. Even though I’m (ahem) somewhere in my 40’s, I still look to my father for advice and wisdom, and I still try every day to live up to his example of strength in adversity, care of home and family, being a good friend, and, of course, a discerning eye and good taste. My dad, a stroke survivor for the last eight years, had a heart attack nearly four months ago. He spent weeks and weeks in the hospital and rehab – learning to walk again and gaining strength. And you know what he did last weekend? He cleaned the grill at their house. He has never asked “Why Me?” My parents have been married for 54 years. Amazing. He has friends stretching back to high school and those he’s met more recently. He has the happy ability to be able to talk with anyone and make friends easily. And unlike many of his contemporaries, he’s an internet road warrior having just upgraded to high speed service. He said “this is so fast, I may need to get a seat belt for my office chair!”. No more dial-up for him!
I grew up in a household where there was never hired help – no contractors, no designers, no landscapers. My family moved several times while I was growing up. And each house was left significantly better off than when we moved in. My dad singly handedly installed moldings, wallpaper (defying gravity by hanging paper in stairwells), painted both inside and out, was a full partner in decorating with my mother, installed kitchen cabinets, cut and installed tile counters, hung window treatments (some of which my Mom made), did the mowing and landscaping. He did the plumbing and electrical work (“Is it on now?” as bellowed up from the basement). Neighbors often said that when they died, they wanted to come back as one of Bob Merrill’s cars, or his lawn. He took classes in upholstery, so he could reupholster his mother’s rocking chair and other antiques he picked up along the way.
He took woodworking classes – and has refinished a massive antique oak desk, an antique maple drop front desk, and the beautiful painted green antique desk (see photo below) for my bedroom – when I was about 10! It’s one of my treasured possessions.
He bought countless unfinished pieces and finished them. Oh – my brothers and I were pressed into service at times to help out – but really, he did most of it. He put in a pre-made garden shed in his current yard – but painted it a jaunty barn red and built, from scratch, a beautiful cupola on top – aka “Cape Cod’s most expensive Cupola” as it required the purchase of several very expensive specialty tools to build.
My dad was known to say “A job’s not worth doing unless done well” and “the careful-careless look”, which was his version of Shabby Chic. He never cut corners and did all jobs at 100%. But everything was always livable – nothing too precious to be used and enjoyed. We were taught to respect and care for quality. My parents still own and use much of the furniture they purchased when married. A testament to their eye for quality and timeless style. Their house is still a place of warmth and classic American style – with Hepplewhite and Sheraton style furnishings, convex mirrors and antique oriental carpets. Nothing is dated, or shabby looking. There was no “my kids will destroy it” in our house. We were taught how to respect things, and so we did. Yet, we were never made to feel like we couldn’t live in our own house.
Like my Dad, I generally believe that I should do pretty much everything myself, or at least find a friend to do it with me. Where I fall short – I’m still a work in progress, after all – is that it sometimes takes me a really long time to finish projects. I get in over my head and kind of stall. (Luckily for my design clients, I’m not labor, but management!).
So, a big thanks and Happy Father’s Day to a guy who has taught, by example, the values of respect and love – towards oneself, one’s friends and family, and towards one’s home.
I love you Daddy!