“Is this my 7th and 8th grade shop teacher’s house?” We heard this over and over during the two day estate sale we had this last weekend to get rid of some of the stuff my mom did not want to take with her to her new apartment in an Independent Living Center. We were asked this question probably 20 - 30 times.The answer was almost always, ‘Yes.” These incidents were interesting to say the least and inspirational at the best. Usually I was somewhere in between, remembering some of the bad stuff of the past while being faced with the persona my dad showed the world around him. Some of those stories, the persona ones, are described below.
As I indicated above, one of the coolest things was the number of people who came to the sale that had been students of my dad in his wood shop classes in Junior High. We lived just 4 blocks from the Junior High so there were a lot of students in Dad's classes from the surrounding neighborhood. Many of the former students had their children with them and told their kids that the hammer (or saw or chisel, or power sander or lumber or whatever) being bought for them were tools from his or her shop teacher. Several were actually motivated to start teaching their kids woodworking skills. One guy walked up the driveway looking at stuff. He eventually made it to the garage where we had miscellaneous new and used tools laying out to be sold. Some of my dad's woodworking projects (in various levels of completion) were also for sale out on tables.
This guy's head swiveled around looking at the wood projects and tools. Then he asked my older brother if this was a sale of Mr. Mallos' stuff. We told him yes and then he started talking about having similar cutting board and box -- his parents still use the cutting board! He was a 40+ year old man in a proverbial toy store (the "toys" now were saws, hammers, etc.) Eventually he and his wife decided to buy the two twin beds we had for sale (also made by my dad in his early years of woodworking). He was so excited that he would have this long term connection to his favorite teacher, and he was excited to give his boys new -- handcrafted -- beds.
There were many other such stories. Dad would've been so happy that former students bought his tools. He would have been embarrassed by their repeated kind words. One woman said he was the best teacher she ever had, even through college. She said he was fun, funny, really listened to her, made sense out of the math she kept getting poor grades in by applying it in shop. She said he was "tough but fair." My brothers got through selling dad's stuff (which they had been saying they needed to do since a couple months after my dad's death in 2004) because of these stories. It gave them closure and made the "disposal" of dad's stuff easier. I felt like a little part of Dad was passed on to each person who would now use those tools. He would be laughing (and probably giving away many more things than we did), by the whole event and chitchatting with his former students.
For me, it was one more chance to process and eradicate (or at least lessened) the feelings of pain, fear, and numb from my childhood. It can be, at least in my mind, a symbolic gesture but is also part of the healing and recovery process.