Jim McCormack built a shed. So what, you’re thinking? Men build sheds all the time and there is nothing in that first sentence that draws the reader and make them hungry for more, but wait. This is his story, told to me by his daughter and I can vouch for the tale as I have seen the structure first hand.
Jim has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. It has come at a time when he should be winding down and enjoying what life has to offer. The fates are not always kind and he had to retire from a career he loved and to his horror, he is now in the company of his wife twenty-four hours a day. She is not a bad woman, but the kindest thing I can find to say about her is that her tongue was forged from the finest tempered steel.
Death requires a lot of thought, he needed to be alone, to get things in order and so the idea of a shed was born. He built it himself, not an easy job for a man unused to working with his hands, but it came together bit by bit. The roof is made of galvanised steel, which makes the slightest shower of rain sound like thunder. It doesn’t matter though as sounds, smells and colours have become very important and have taken on a new meaning. The walls are made from pieces of wood he found while scavenging or was given by family and friends. Nothing matches, but it is his den, his sanctuary. He now spends most of his day in there and admits only the privileged few.
His five-year-old granddaughter, Suzie, is his best friend. Most days, after the rigors of school and homework are through; they sit in the shed and build furniture for her doll’s house. Tiny beds, tables and chairs are whittled by his care-worn hands as he listens to her childish gossip. He is her granddad, her hero and he in turn finds comfort in her dreams and imagination. I watch them sometimes, these two gentle souls, one just beginning a life, the other contemplating the end and I wish that time could stand still.
Of course the most important thing about the shed is to see Jim’s pride in it. He glows when he speaks of finding some old oil heater or table that fits inside its rackety interior. He needs to keep adding to it as if it were alive, feeding it the way he did his children. It had become an extension of himself and says the things he could never find words for. It keeps out the unwelcome and lets in with open arms the people he loves. As my friend says.
“It has made me realise how much I mean to my father. I’m a bit like the shed, I’ll never be perfect, but when he talks about me his face has the same glow it has when he talks about the shed.”
It’s a beginning. I refuse to think of it as an end. Don’t you?
Copyrighr© Gemma Mawdsley2013
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