On Dad Jobs

A pair of AirPods and their case lay abandoned on a brick pathway.
Photo by Quinton Coetzee on Unsplash

Among other things around my childhood home, I’ve been putting the garden to bed these last three days or so. I’m sure this job shouldn’t take three days, but let’s be clear here: I’m bad at it. Real bad. But my dad’s passing has meant taking on a bunch of Dad Jobs in the hope of taking the load off my mum a little, so in addition to catching a mouse (not my strong suit either) and a bunch of computer stuff (here I am more comfortable), I have been getting the garden ready for winter.

I’m not doing a good job. I’m mostly just cutting everything back and raking everything out and hoping for the best — and hoping I am not killing anything. But it feels like doing something, which is a pretty powerful drug these days.

I’m thinking a lot, as I do this, about the kinds of jobs my dad always did and how much I didn’t pay attention. I don’t know how to bait a mousetrap (thanks, YouTube) and I don’t know how to use a pruning saw (but I know now I was doing it backwards for at least the first part of Friday). All these things I never attended to, because Dad was either there and just doing it, or on the end of the phone to ask for help when I needed it. His absence is palpable. We haven’t picked snow tires yet this year. Who are we going to run that by? Or oh god, what about when we have to buy our next car? Who do I call next time I need to reformat my Mac? And why did I never pay attention to the mousetraps?

We are experiencing unseasonably warm weather here and while normally a 24 degree (Celsius — I don’t know what that is in weirdo temperature) in November would fill me with existential dread, I’m struck by how lovely the weather has been here — pretty much non-stop — since the day after Dad died. There is so much to do and so much to learn and it’s nice to think that Dad didn’t want me to also be cold and miserable while I gnawed at the trees with a backwards pruning saw (I eventually figured it out.)

On Friday, when I was in the garden pulling out some rogue blackberry bushes that had grown roots at both ends (sorry, is that a thing?), I realized that the AirPod that had been in my pocket was now… not. As often when I am working on a task with one part of my brain and parenting with the other, I had one earbud in on the side mostly to the garden, and one earbud out on the side mostly to where my five-year-old was playing. But the other AirPod was… gone. I searched everywhere, but between the leaves and the loose soil and my pile of debris, I gave the whole thing up for lost. As I lay in bed Friday night, I idly Googled the cost of a single replacement AirPod and gently choked on it as I drifted off to sleep, listening to the rain surely drowning my poor beleaguered AirPod in its garden grave.

Something to know about my dad is that he was an Apple fanatic. Like, since the start. My first computer that was mine-all-mine and not a family hand-me-down (in 1996 or so) was a Mac Color Classic that someone at Dad’s work was getting rid of after getting a Performa. Oh, how I adored that computer. From that point on, Dad had Macs and I had his old Macs. I was thinking about that as I searched for my AirPod: “Well, maybe this gorgeous weather has nothing to do with Dad, because Dad would not be involved in my losing an AirPod!”

On Saturday, finally finishing raking out that section of the garden, I looked down and saw… my AirPod. Perfectly protected from the rain overnight by the pile of leaves I hadn’t moved. It’s perfectly functional and somehow still clean and looking like new. Magical. Miracle. Dad?

Two theories: one, Dad saw the cost of the single replacement AirPod and was absolutely not having it; or two, he wasn’t going to let me have my AirPod back until I got out there and finished the job.

The job is done now for another year, Dad. I’m not sure I’ll get used to doing Dad Jobs, though I’ll try to muddle through them all as best I can. The dog doesn’t like the way I make his breakfast and I never remember to clean your grandson’s water bottle as carefully as you did. Every day I find a new way you are missed.

But thanks for finding my AirPod.


  • I fully believe in Dad power as the answer, what kind of world does that leave if not?

    My dad was religious on washing his car, every Saturday, like more than clockwork.

    I sometimes wonder if hex would be disapproving looking at my truck which maybe gets washed every other year. But the best Dads don’t operate or live transactionally.

    And the thing about learning to do mousetraps- they never hint at the fact they work well.

    • I caught my thumb while disarming one — more than two weeks ago now and still feeling it.

      I had a very unfair argument with my dad on the plan ride home when I missed my connection. Really felt he should have done something about it. But then, he hated air travel when he was here, so.

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