Family Heirlooms: Backyards and Adirondack Chairs

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

Your papaw makes adirondack chairs in the driveway behind the house. He drags heavy saws and lumber out of the garage and uses his hands. He works into the evenings sometimes. In the place where I used to run predawn sprints and jump rope to cut weight for wrestling. Where I used to shoot baskets as a kid with my friends. Where I’m sure I talked back to him and Nana a time or two. I guess my world revolved around the driveway behind the house I grew up in.

Now there’s a tree house there he built for you kids a few years ago.

I’m sure he’s lost track of how many chairs he’s made; several for each of us kids. Silent auction pieces for their church. A chair out of old water skis once for my employer’s lake house.

He made adirondacks in bunches and sold them to help me raise money for my trip to Hawaii for the 2005 Triathlon World Championships.

This week I’ve been finishing two of his chairs in our own backyard. I took them from our deck, pressed them over my head, carried them into a patch of dead grass in the backyard where your kiddie pool laid all summer.

I primed each of them. Flat, pale white, grey when it dried, the wood grain showing through, but thoroughly covered. You kids played precariously near the white primer. The temptation to touch the wet chairs almost more than you could stand. Side stepping near the open can of paint, perhaps seeing how close you could get. You played between checking my progress: Swings, slide, a game of chase.

The next night I finished them with a white exterior gloss paint. You brushed my shoulder as I squatted while painting. I asked you to step back. You asked if you could stir the paint. If you could sit on them yet. A game of pirates  atop your playset, then zombies chasing each other, finally a one sided game of fetch with Coco the dog.

Music filled our backyard this week while I worked. Donavon Frankenreiter and Jack Johnson for the most part. Izzy, you sat on the deck and wrote a story each night. You will be a writer one day.

I was distracted by the clean up and you little ones put your hands on the wet paint. Coco brushed too close and ended up with a white stripe down her side. Max, you snuck off with a paint brush and painted part of your swing set.

Into the greyness of dusk and eventual tree shadowed evening I worked on the chairs, painting the chairs built by my dad, as my own children played around me. It was a simple task. But as I worked I realized how peaceful I felt and how important both the chairs and the hours in our backyard are. Trips to the beach, or Disney, or races leave us with lasting family memories. Things we buy. Toys and adventures. The pinch of ownership.

But family heirlooms and playing past dark in our own backyard are the things we’ll remember most. They’re the only things we carry with us into the days ahead.

I’ll put the finishing touches on the chairs tonight.

I love you,

– Daddy


Fri: Rode 55 / Ran 3

Sat: Rode 30 miles

Sun: Ran 12 miles

Mon: rest

Tues: unplanned day off. Too tired to train/ Max, you have an absessed tooth and it’s kept you and all of us up all night this week. Poor boy. You’re on antibiotics now and the tooth will be pulled in a couple of weeks.

Wed: Ran 30 easy minutes. Still no sleep.

Thurs: Swam 1800