I think most of us enjoy when we are faced with a challenge in an area we are well versed in or even consider as an expertise. For me, it's things like taking a child hiking up an Adirondack high peak for the first time. Or maybe watching my best friend catch his first trout on a fly I tied for him and taught him how to use. It could be showing someone Saturn's rings in a telescope, pointing out an osprey nest, or simply helping a friend get a grip on their hand plane. However, there's one area of expertise I dread to have to use - especially when it comes to family. I've been an oncology nurse for almost two decades. Now I find myself having to put my years of training and experience to work for my stepfather, Jim.
Some of you have seen my beat up old bench plane collection. Most of them came from my step father's weekly visit to the local flea market. You know that type 9 Bailey #7? Yup, that was Jim. those 3 or 4 jack planes? Jim. My first Miller's Falls plane? Jim. Most of the hand saws hanging up in the shop? Jim. He loved to search for those old tools and was almost as excited to find them as I was to recieve them. Naturally, he wouldn't take any money in return, brushing off the cost as "a couple of dollars - don't worry about it".
Jim is sleeping right now, just a few feet from me. He can barely talk when he's awake - weak, frail, and a shell of the man he used to be. The family has rallied to give my mother some much needed help. I've taken a leave from work to help take care of him through the night so my mother can get some sleep....and do what I do best for Jim. It's the least I can do. The lung cancer has really taken hold of him, and with his 70th birthday looming in a week or so I know his last days are in sight. I should know it - it's my expertise.
Spend as much time as you can with those who mean the most. Don't hold grudges, they will only make you sick with regret. And never, never take a single day for granted.