Magee was written on the bag tag supplied by the Aurora Casket Co.
Today, it carried the last contents of my dad’s pockets. It held well over a half-pound of necessary things — 18 pennies, five nickels, 10 dimes, eight quarters, $3.43, in all; a four-bladed Victrinox pocket tool; a single 1-inch Phillips head machine screw and a perfectly good paperclip.
I don’t remember when the emergency room technicians handed the pouch to me. It was a long time before I examined it, and even longer time until I realized a bit of his legacy was in that bag.
Dad was ever the Mr. Fix-it. If a neighbor had a mechanical task to perform, Dad was the go-to guy.
He knew how to do it, or could figure it out. Anyone who needed a special tool, nut and bolt or unusual gadget only had to hint and Dad would retrieve one from his storage room.
The only problem that I really ever had with that was on any gift-buying occasion, trying to find that one thing that he did not already have.
Dad enjoyed working on things and fixing problems as much as some people enjoy their hobby. I recall a particular fishing trip with a family friend. The motor failed, and the fishing stopped for a time. I really believe Dad enjoyed repairing that engine as much as he did the fishing.
Regrettably, Dad’s persistence in doing things right sometimes wore on me. I would often consider good enough to be good enough, which for Dad was not necessarily so. The very last job that he and I did together was a faucet replacement at my parents’ camp.
We put in the new faucet, and with the water pressure up, Dad insisted he could detect the slightest bit of moisture forming at the threads. I couldn’t. It was getting to be late Sunday afternoon, and I was ready to be done with it.
Normally, I would have been impatient, bothered by his need to make it right. For some reason, though, when he said we needed to get the tools out to tighten the spigot one more turn, I was good with that.
Dad used an expression borrowed from a friend: “If a little does a little good, then a whole lot will do a whole lot of good.” It seemed to fit.
The day my brother called me to say something had happened, so many thoughts passed through my mind as I raced for the hospital. Where would we be, what would we do, if today was the day we lost him?
I wondered how I would ever be able to do anything if he was not there for me. Any plumbing, electrical or carpentry job I considered always began with a call for advice that invariably turned into a visit from him when the job started. I wished that I had paid more attention or asked more questions to learn the things he knew.
It has been almost 12 years since we lost Dad. But, we have gone on with what we learned from him. It had to be through osmosis. Now, we do the carpentry, plumbing and electrical jobs. Now, we have the tools and gadgets to share with neighbors.
A couple of years ago, my youngest son asked me if we had any of those odd-shaped clip things like climbers use. I asked if he meant a carabiner. He said yes.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, I had two in my pocket — one medium sized and a smaller one. I don’t recall why I had those odd items in my pocket, but I never doubted that I had them for the same reason that Dad had the screw and paperclip in his pocket.
It was then that I realized there was a bit of his legacy in that bag.
Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at email@example.com or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited.