Sunday, September 8, 2013

I built that...

I finally started to build a toy chest that will hold all of Anna Joy's things that we kept. You know, the sympathy cards, the little stuffed animals that sat on her bed, the little heart objects people gave us, all of that stuff. This project has been a long time coming, and I must say I'm quite excited about it.

Up till now all of Anna's stuff has just been kept in a closet, hodge-podged together for the most part. Alissa did find three decorative boxes to put a lot of it in, but we still have a surplus that needs a home. Thus, our idea to build a toy box. Even so, we still probably won't be able to put all of her stuff in it, but it will hold quite a bit.

You may ask yourself, "why is Matt building one, why doesn't he just go buy one?" Well, Matt likes to not only refer to himself in the third person, but Matt likes to woodwork. Rather than calling oneself a woodworker, one likes to refer to oneself as a wood-butcher, because that is more or less what it is. Matt is still quite the amateur when it comes to proper woodworking techniques, and his signature style is slightly off square.

Okay - I'll stop referring to myself as someone else, back to little ol' me.

One of the cool things about this project (at least for me) is that I have the privilege and honor of working with Tom, who is a long-time fellow amateur woodworker. Perhaps more importantly (no offense Tom), is I get to work in Tom's shop. His shop is what some people would call a woodworkers dream. It's big, well lit, and full of just about every kind of tool that a woodworker would use.

But the really cool thing about this project is the visceral connection (visceral - adjective - relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect) to my daughter. Let me tell you a little bit about the male psyche. We like to see the fruits of our labor. We like to have something physical we can point to and say "that's mine, I did that." We get an emotional high whenever we build, especially if that project has that visceral connection I mentioned a sentence or two earlier.

Now, don't get me wrong, while I can point to Isaac and say "that's mine, I did that" doesn't mean I like him solely because he sprung from my loins. There is so much more to having a child than simply procreating.

One of the joys of fatherhood (and one of the scariest too...) is being able to teach my son about life and about being a man.  My dad taught me (among other things) how to swing an ax, how to shoot a basketball, how to open the door for women, and how to be true to God. I have the opportunity to do those things with Isaac. And I can't wait until he is old enough to take into the shop and teach him how to use the table saw. Until then, I'll content myself with him and I playing with his jets and Star Wars Legos (okay, I bought the Legos more for me than him right now...but he'll grow into them, right?).

But what about Anna? I can't do the teaching stuff. At least not in sense that I get to teach her these things as she grows up. That hurts more than I can describe, even if I wrote thousands, maybe even millions, of words about it.

What, then, can I do to pour into my daughter's life here on earth? How can I manifest my feelings of joy, sorrow, pride, fear, and love? Well, let me build something. Let me have a project that will channel those feelings into a tangible, physical representation. Let me create. Let me mold and shape. And through it all, I'll connect.

I get the joy of hearing Isaac yell "DADDY!!!" as soon as I open the door when I get home from work. But there's something missing from that daily occurrence: Anna's voice joined in. My baby is gone from me, and is in the loving arms of our Lord.

We have pictures of our baby all over the house. I have them on my desk, and her image graces the wallpaper of my phone and computer. I wear a bracelet with her name on it. But let me build this toy chest for her, and I'll be able to open it up, pull something of her's out, sit down on it and say "I built this for my baby girl, this is mine." And then I'll probably cry (like I am right now as I write this), but I'll also find solace and peace.