In the modern world a man has his special room called a man-cave. Placed and held in high esteem, usually scattered everywhere are all the precious pieces of “junk” (as Mom calls it) that he endears and has stored. These new modern caves with the 60 inch flat screen LCD, HD, gaming systems and internet access televisions, that include enough sports paraphernalia to inundate the masculine senses with a euphoric high, grants the man of the house a lion’s den pride amongst all the modern reveals of interior design. Long before the modern standard in boys with toys comfort, there were a few simpler precursors that where once en vogue, well sort of.
Men, while they were still boys were a little more primitive in their needs and mud grimed clothes were the utmost in their fashion attire. After all, “throw some dirt on it” is still a boys best medical lament.
Those early man-caves were called forts, tree houses and club houses. Incredible early marvels of construction made with used nails, scrap wood and a lot of “junk” (hmm Mom maybe onto something) they found from everywhere. Mother’s back in time believed that Tide, Whisk, All-Tempa-Cheer and Clorox would relieve the stained fabrics of the newly bought starch white church shirt of beastly grass, oil and dirt from their precious angel’s clothes. Secretly, they counted on stains to catch little sweet Johnny in a lie of his where abouts. Ah the days of innocence that forge a boy’s soul to manhood and the expectation for youthful males to demonstrate skills for the future.
I suspect boys, who grew up when my Dad did, never quite imagined what a discarded cardboard box, broken fence parts, mud splattered spackle and rusty nails of engineering could evolve to. For once Dad was groomed to my mother he discovered all things male would be placed in the garage. Yes the garage, tool bearing, oil smelling, trash can holding pre-modern versions of the Man-cave. The other high-end domicile of masculinity was…wait for it…..wait for it……
“The John” why else would it be called with a male gender name? Oh yippee, (sigh) the pride of Charmin and the Sears’ catalogue. Do something wrong in our house and a stiff punishment could be having to clean up after a recent visit by the only male in our home. If you saw Dad enter with the newspaper it could be awhile, better grab a clothes pin, Windex, scrub brush and gloves. I looked more like a mad scientist preparing for a new experiment then someone who just hacked off Mom for not getting my book report done.
These two places varied in size and structure, both places did however, make Spanky and the gang’s He-man Women Haters Club look far more luxurious and, grand in splendor with the added bonus of being in a really cool tree. I am also willing to bet to this day, Dad quietly wished over an hourglass for a Delorean that would transport him back to his first cave once my sister and I started driving.
What was truly ingenious of Dad was his portable man-cave. Yes my dad, that wryly creative soul, discovered by carrying a newspaper everywhere, he could camouflage his secret desires to stealthily sneak off to see a man about a horse or tinker around in the garage with the other pioneers of pre-cave amenities for a quick beer and never being able to remember to take out the trash. Simply said, this mild manner male figure of patriarchy, once seated at the dinner table in one smooth motion could miraculously disappear behind the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Never to be heard from unless a disagreement between the females ensued, the female gender canines begged too much or I said and did something that either invoked humor or evoked Mom, usually I could do both at the same time.
The black and white pages of boring stuff (as I referred to it) would shake up and down from his laughter. If you need to get his attention just knock on the printed pages and you would hear a drawn out “yeeeesss?” Sometimes if he was really deep into the man-cave of published fish wrap you might have to knock harder or comeback later, which usually meant he was going to stay out of it, or how much was it going to cost to replace.
The portable man-cave was Dad’s method of choice over the garage and the bathroom. His deployment of the paper gave him the ability to listen to the on goings of his home, afforded him the title of king of the selective hearing and gave the appearance of being present.
Then he would always with out delay, fold the newspaper and comment on everything he heard. He offered suggestions, asked questions and cautiously warned me to stop cutting up the paper for school until he had a chance to read it. Many great moments with my Dad have and still are sitting around the kitchen table when I return home for the holidays.
Perhaps the greatest conversation was when I had pushed my luck too far with Mom. His words have stayed with me like the coffee cans in the garage filled with rusty old nails.
“My darling child remember this; the choices you make now are the lessons you will learn later. Cherish each lesson the way that I cherish and love you.”
Just like a coffee can of old nails you don’t know why you have them but you never know when you are going to need them. His words on that day didn’t make me feel better nor get me out of trouble, further I didn’t understand why he said what he said. All I knew was he loved me and wished me well in my choices. Years later, those words can still bring me solace and have been a constant mantra while raising my own family. Like the old nails in the garage his words were waiting for me to use when I needed them.
Today the newspaper for Dad has been replaced by an IPad, he has his own study (still filled with junk according to Mom), he has more male support in the house with the dogs and grandsons who reside there. Yet in his real cave, (his inner self) is the most precious gift that he gives to all of us regularly. The gift of his generous, loving and brilliant heart.
Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you with all my heart!
PS I am thinking of redoing the bathroom any suggestions? Just kidding!