Saturday, July 30, 2022

Height and the usefulness of ladders....

 The word for our second memory challenge is "ladder." Here's how I remembered it.

Given that my father was a silver medalist in Canadian diving, height had very little effect on him. Placing a ladder on the apex of a bungalow's roof so he could climb up and fix the orientation of our TV antenna was simply what he did to save money and improve reception.

One day, however, it was a little windy and I guess the weather had unnerved him. He asked me to stabilize the ladder, while he climbed up, yet again, to tweak the antenna. 

"You just straddle the roof of the house and hold the base of the ladder, while I climb up," he said.

Now let's put this in perspective. I was 12 years old, about 4'5" tall and 95lbs. My father was 42 years old,  5'7" in height and about 200 or more pounds. There was no way that I could prevent that ladder from toppling over in a sudden gust of wind. But, that day, I had become my father's keeper.

How he managed to get both of us onto the roof, pull up the ladder and then position it against the antenna was a feat in itself.

He climbed on the first rung. I inched forward to grab the sides of the ladder. He climber higher. I held my breath. Ladders shift with weight. I gripped the struts tighter hoping to anchor the ladder to the roof of the house with my fragile limbs. I couldn't fail. I had to keep him from falling to his death. The ladder shifted. I pulled tighter. How long does it take to adjust a wire or two? How long would I live with the guilt of his death. The wind blew up. I closed my eyes. I clenched my hands tighter around the base of the ladder. My knuckles were white. Surely this would be his Armageddon. Do all electrical engineers die by twisting the wires of Fate? 

Finally, the ladder shifted slightly with his decent. It was over. I was free and he was saved, for now anyway from a premature death. In fact, he went on to live another 62 years. His next house had an antenna with a built in ladder secured to the ground not the roof. I often think he had a Guardian Angel - Evel Knievel comes to mind.

At the time I never questioned his sanity in choosing me as his safety net. After all, I was the eldest, my mother's balance wasn't great, or she had more sense and the neighbour's had given up on him years ago.

In fact, this ladder incident was just one in a series of chores I was asked to do. Fortunately the other tasks were more mundane. I could jockey the car out of a snowbank while he pushed from behind. I was 13 or 14 without a license. This is second only to popping the clutch to start a car with a dead battery, while he pushed the car downhill, to get her rolling. Again I had no license. I could hold the solder while he used a blow torch in a tricky plumbing maneuver. This was easy I had done it before when I was 8 or 9. The list goes on. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer. No, I should have been an engineer.

Have a grounded day.

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