“Aaron, always use the right tool for the job.”

Wisdom from my Dad, harshly given after I broke one of his tools – using it for some other purpose than it was designed for. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only time he gave me this bit of advice, nor the last time I broke one of his tools. Eventually, I learned.

Dad taught me about Craftsman tools, and their lifetime warranty. If one of them ever broke, all you had to do was take the broken tool to your local Sears for a no-questions-asked exchange.

Earlier this evening, I was walking home from a brief errand. Walking through the rain in an empty parking lot, I stared headfirst at a building I once loved going to with Dad; Sears. Not just any Sears, but the Sears we went to on countless occasions.

The store is now vacant, with a large “For Lease” sign hanging on the front. Yet, that doesn’t erase the memories that magical hardware store provided me with as a child.

As I walked past, I could almost smell the place; the combination of cold steel, landscaping supplies, and lumber.

The cold rain fell down the back of my neck as I tried to seal the memories in my head and never let them go.

“Hey Dad…wish you were here.” I thought, as I gave the vacant building one last look.

Ever since returning to Ohio, Dad has been on my mind a lot. This weekend, as I re-caulked my shower, I wondered if somewhere in the universe, he was there looking down at his son – tackling a household job with no prior experience in the art.

I know he’s beaming with pride as my younger brother has painstakingly gone through the process of restoring Dad’s old Advent speakers….

Dad – he raised kids that fixed things – or, at the very least, did their best to do so.

Whenever I look back on my Dad, I’m reminded of the moments where I looked up to him. I mean, really looked up to him. It wasn’t when he bought a new car (new? ha!) or pulled out his wallet to pay for something.

It was when I saw him work, sweat, and make things better than they were before – be it a broken Volvo station wagon, or standing in front of a metal grinder while he sharpened a lawn mower blade – sparks flying like fireworks around his body.

That sound, the smell of hot metal, the beads of sweat pouring down his face as he lovingly showed his 12-year-old son how to give new life to a mower blade…those moments were the times I looked up to my Dad and saw a real hero.

Everybody has different characters to their ‘life’ story. I watched as my Hero figure withered from cancer before losing the fight, leaving a stunned family with deep wounds that have taken years to process since his passing.

While nothing can heal the pain from his loss, there’s nothing that can rob me of my memories of him, either. These are the memories I choose to cling to when I go through days where the heartbreak seems as fresh as July 29th, 2007.


Walking through the covered passage between Sears and a burned-out local bar, I took shelter from the rain and realized the torch Wim Plaat carried wasn’t extinguished; it was split six ways and continues to set the world on fire, even in the rain.

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