Michael was born with a deformity which prevented him from being a proficient handyman.
It was not a particularly visible deformity.
In fact, at his birth the midwife did not even notice his deficiency. And she was trained to spot these things.
He seemed to have all the bits and pieces he would need in life: two legs, two arms, 10 fingers and 10 toes.
His breathing was fine, his heartbeat was strong. He seemed, well, normal.
But there was something missing ... something that did not become apparent until he started learning about handyman skills in grade seven of school.
He was hopeless at both woodwork and metalwork.
Some males claim to be missing a gene that gives them the instinctive skill to make items out of wood or weld metal together to make fabulous constructions.
That's what Michael thought at first, too, when he was one of 26 boys who made a cement trowel from the same pattern in grade seven woodwork. Twenty-five of them looked exactly the same. His looked considerably different.
He was no better at metalwork.
Thirty years later, his metalwork teacher is still trying to work out how Michael managed to accidentally weld the school's football team's trophy to a wooden workbench.
No, it was more than a missing gene.
Deep down he knew that, even though it took him some years to work out his problem.
The penny dropped in a dream one night.
Michael woke up in a sweat and knew. He was deformed.
It was difficult to come to grips with but by the time he married Lisa, he was 29 and had accepted his fate.
He should have told his wife before they married, he supposed, but waited until their wedding night.
It came as quite a shock to her and she came very close to going home to her mother in tears at once.
But, despite her worries for the future, she stood by her man.
Nobody expected him to father children, least of all Michael.
After all, he had never been able to make anything.
Well, he did. Somehow he managed to get Part A to match with Part B.
Lisa had a bouncing baby boy, perfect in every way, and it was the happiest day of Michael's life.
It was also the last really happy day of his life.
You see, one of the big responsibilities of being the father of a boy is to teach the young whipper-snapper how to be a handyman.
You start by buying him some rudimentary plastic tools when he is two: a little hammer, a little saw, a little screwdriver and a few plastic bolts.
Then you show him how to fix things.
You nail some picture hooks into the wall.
You fix some dodgy doorknobs.
You unstick some stuck windows.
And all the time, the little tacker is close to you, with his little plastic toolbox, asking "Daddy, can I help?"
By the time, he is in his mid-teens you work up to some big-ticket items.
You build your wife that pergola she has always wanted.
You add a parents retreat and en suite to the back of the house.
You and your son transplant the big oak tree in the front yard two feet to the left so the sun shines more brightly into the sunroom each afternoon at 3 o'clock.
But Michael did not experience those types of joys.
And he knew that one day his son would want to know why.
The awful moment came the day the boy turned 16.
"Well, son, it's like this," said Michael, his voice trembling. "You know how you always see carpenters and plumbers and builders and electricians with pencils behind their ears?"
"Yes, dad," said the boy, hanging on every traumatic word.
"Well, son, I can't do that. I was born with ears that stick out too far from my head. I'm deformed."
©August 10, 2000 John Martin. All Rights Reserved
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