The List Maker

My father was a list maker. Every Saturday morning I’d find him quietly sitting at the kitchen table in his bathrobe, cup of coffee close by, knees crossed with a pencil in hand and pad of paper on his lap. He was thoughtfully generating the work list for the day. Saturday morning meant chores.

Dad’s lists . . . they were special. I never told him but I loved his handwriting and the beautiful way he formed his letters. He was an artist you see, and every time he touched pencil to paper something magic happened. I can picture him, in soft concentration, chair a quarter turn away from the table with paper on his lap, peaceful in the short stillness of early morning – the rest of his brood still sleeping.

In the silence, he would stop to think and his attention would often drift aside to create delicate pencil drawings in the corner of the page. Faces of old people mostly. I wondered how he knew how to do that. How could he capture the wonderful character and wisdom of age in those faces with just a few gentle lines? Who were those people anyway? Why did he find those old faces so interesting? Funny, as a child, I never thought to ask him out loud.

Well, the morning stillness would never last for long. Soon, the rest of the kids were up, breakfasted and out the door to work the list. Of course, Dad was with us too, list in hand (or at least in head) to lead the charge. The old heavy window screens, stored for the winter, had to come out of the loft of the barn. The side of the house needed scraping for new paint. Big piles of leaves needed to be raked onto the side of the road for burning. Depending on the season, there was always plenty more to do.

Sometimes, all five of us kids harrumphed, complained and harangued. Dad would quickly bring us back to order and back to work . . . to the list. Really, believe it or not, we mostly had fun. I have to say that some of the chores were hard work but the work earned us the great satisfaction of crossing each chore off the list as it was completed.

We kids learned that hard work and accomplishment go hand in hand and that creating a list is a valuable organizer and motivator. Ah, Dad’s lists . . . they were special.

Happy Father’s Day.

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