As a carpenter and builder in his prime, Daddy really was a resourceful craftsman. He built houses out of driftwood fished out of the Mississippi River and raised church buildings and houses from the foundation up. He specialized in salvaging old materials like timbers and windows and cabinetry, scraping off layers of age and mildew and coats of paint, and crafting beauty by either creating something new or by restoring something old.

Now at eighty-five, the craftsman’s skills are understandably diminished. But the resourcefulness is not. The greenhouse is his latest project; he boasted to me yesterday that it hasn’t cost him a cent. He salvaged all of the materials, including the windows, from a junk pile.

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And the jumbled storeroom where the tools, supplies, and paraphernalia of six or seven decades of accumulation lends testimony to that old school dogma, “Waste not, want not,” except in Daddy’s case, perhaps carried to an extreme.shed.jpg

Will I be like that when I reach 85? It’s hard to say, because I’m not the craftsman and builder that Daddy is. But with a little imagination, and a parody on A. E. Houseman’s poem “When I Was One and Twenty,” here’s how I might view the situation at “Five and Eighty”:

When I Am Five and Eighty

When I am five and eighty
A wise man to me will say,
“Save boards and windows and nails
To craft a greenhouse gay;
Save wanton junk and bounty
And hold your money tight.”
Yes, when I be five and eighty
Like my Daddy, I just might.
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