It was a late-June day. School was out—first grade had been great fun, now it was finished, and now it was summer.
The six-but-almost-seven-year old boy sat beside his father in the pick-up truck that carried the ladders and the toolbox. They were going to work. The boy promised his father that he was big enough to help, now; he could clean up the scraps that would be thrown down by the two men working on the roof—his father and his father’s partner.
He was in awe of his father–his muscles bulging out of a sleeveless white tank top undershirt; he watched the skill and ease with which his father used the hammer, as if it was an extension of his right hand, not separate, but part of him. He marveled at the way his father carried a full bundle of shingles on his left shoulder up the ladder and put them on the roof, and after several bundles his father climbed onto the roof to ‘do the job,’ as he put it.
It was the first time the boy went to work with his father. His mother had packed their lunch and put the egg salad sandwiches in the black lunch box and put cold milk in the thermos bottle. He brought his roller skates that he attached to his shoes and tightened with a key, and he was careful not to lose that key.
The morning went slowly. There wasn’t much for him to do—not many scraps to clean up. The two men went up and down the ladder with ease. He wanted to climb, too, and finally he mustered his nerve and climbed the ladder to the edge of the roof, stopped at the top by a staging board he couldn’t climb over.
His father saw him, and rather than tell him to get down, which is what he feared, his father said, “Are you ready to get up?”
Surprised, pleased and a little nervous he said, “Yes.”
His father moved to the ladder top, stepped onto the staging board and said, give me your hand. He took the boy’s left wrist and said, “Okay, let go,” and for a second that seemed like a big piece of eternity he let himself be pulled up, dangling in mid-air until he got onto the staging board, then onto the roof. His father put him on the roof staging board on the roof and went back to work.
Now that he had accomplished his mission, the boy didn’t know what to do, so he sat, looking down, and becoming increasingly aware that he was not on the ground anymore. He looked at people walking along the sidewalk and thought, “They don’t know how lucky they are!”
He sat for several long minutes, and finally his father said, “Are you ready to get down?”
Very relieved he said, “Yes,!” and realized that he had almost shouted his “Yes!” His father smiled – it was clear the boy was ready to get down ‘now!’
His father took the boy’s wrist, and moving gracefully put him onto the staging board, and then onto the ladder, and the boy climbed down, glad to be earth-bound again, and more than ever in awe of his strong, gentle father.