Pressure Treated

NOTE: This is a work of non-fiction for this weeks challenge.

by Rand Dyke

Love is a lot like a pressure treated timber. It may get grey and slimy over time, but if you give ‘er a good pressure wash and a good sealer, she looks just like new.

Its sometime in the mid nineteen eighties. Between Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock, my father has begun construction behind our family house of a massive engineering effort of concrete, decking, and pressure treated wonder. It’s the kind of undertaking the Egyptians and Aztecs would have fondly respected. Yet, out back, there’s no Nubian or Oaxacan slaves lugging concrete boulders for this deal. Nope, here it’s just my dad, no shirt, a tall can of Coor’s Light in his hand and my barely teenage brother to finish the job.

I’m there too, granted, probably something around six or seven years old. At that point, my status as a “helper” is seriously in question. I can see myself dancing between the sonotubes as my brother and dad yell at me. He ends up getting me for some token work, I think I hold one of the big ten foot tubes as my dad dumps concrete down them, swearing and cursing for me to “Hold still”. Truth is, I’m not good for much back then, and as I watch my brother and dad slave away with hammers and drills, screwing down the frame of a massive deck and laying down endless planks of pressure treated decking, I think of the work site as a better place to play with my GI Joes than a life lesson.

Somewhere I can see my dad again, nailing with a hammer, stopping abruptly to swear and curse at the fates. I can hear him shout my name to come help him as I duck out within the secret hiding spots in the house.

At several points during the process, we need supplies. Time to head to “Gross outs” aka Grossman’s hardware store. The place was a proto version of a box chain store, huge and spacious and my father loved it. We drive the ten minutes over to the store in my dad’s 1960s “pumpkin” colored Ford truck, you can see the road through the floor near the shifter and, after a while, you get a little woosy from the exhaust fumes if you idle too long. We get a few nuts and bolts, some bags of “post set” and head back to work.

When it’s done, the work is a masterpiece. It’s at least twenty by fifteen, with a nebulous mezzanine, a sea of balusters and rear steps. As I look at the construct, the spires of endless yellow wood and lattice work of decking is something to be proud of. I can see my dad, somewhere around forty years old with his shirt off, leaning on a post digger all sweaty and still holding a cold Coor’s Light in his hand.  He has his hand on my brother’s head and says something like “It’s a good looking deck, son,” Somewhere in the land of ancients gone by, an Incan engineer tips his hat to my old man’s prowess.

Time melts away and its twenty years later. Now I’m older and have a home of my own. My dad is there as we build a sprawling back deck behind my new house. Despite the size of the job, there’s a twinkle of excitement in his eyes. I’ve been gone for years, my brother has long since moved away and now he finally has something to build with someone he loves. It’s a good time, and it’s good to be home.

Yet, my old man is not his former self anymore. He’s over sixty now, and in very poor health. Mostly he just stands there with a Coor’s light in his hand and points his finger and shouts his architectural recommendations. At one point, we get in a bitter fight about one particular strategy to level the joists. After we get done, we go out for a burger and make another trip to the hardware store. Eventually, we both cool off and get back to work.

Despite his waning health, he manages to drop a hammer and nail or two into the thing. I can see him out there, amidst the wood and marking string, swinging away. He curses a bit as he misses a nail.

When it’s done, both of us sit back and marvel at the sea of yellow pressure treated wood in front of us. Again, it’s a work to be proud of. Twenty by twelve with a nice square shape. The deck is no cultural edifice of engineering, but it’s no slouch either.

Again, I can see him say “We over built this, son and that’s the right thing to do,” as he kicks one of the post beams.

Three years later and I need to re do my front deck this time. Unfortunately, my dad is much worse off now, and only able to watch me build the modest ten by ten structure. Yet, he helps me still, making recommendations and watching me. When it gets down to work, there is still a twinkle in his eye as I set the ledger and lay in the joists. I can hear him say with sadness, “I’m sorry I can’t be much more help, son,” I don’t think he swings a nail for this one. But he still manages to drink a cool beer when it’s done.

“I’m proud of you,” he tells me as he looks on both decks. “We did a good job on those decks,” I hear him say.

That next winter my father dies.

It’s nearly thirty years since “we” built the first huge deck behind our old family home. As I think about my father and my family, I take a swing by the old house. The place has since been sold a few times, it’s been remodeled and expanded and looks pretty good. On the side, someone has slapped down some nice looking cedar shingles on the whole thing. Evidently, someone cares about the place just as much as my old man did. To my surprise though,  as I glance out back, I can see the old deck still stands. Sure enough, it’s the same deck my father, brother and “I” built near thirty years ago.

I smile as I give my brother a call to tell him. When I do, he reminds me I didn’t do shit for that one. We both laugh.

At home, I watch my one and half year old son walk all over the deck my father and I built a few years ago. As I drink a Miller Light (my personal preference) I wonder if some day, I can build another deck with my own son. Yet, even if I don’t, even if he never knows my old man, he’ll walk on this wood and know him well.

Love can be a lot of things to many folks, but in my family, love is pressure treated.

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