Build Your Man a Cave

Mother goes to NAM daily. NAM is our local Northwest Assistance Ministires and they “strive to meet basic human needs through Neighbors helping Neighbors”. They do a fine job of that striving, in a lot of ways. They also have a resale shop. We have an unusual merchandising relationship with the resale/thrift shop. We send our junk up there by the minivan full and then we shop there for items that other people have sent up there in minivans full. Unfortunately, keeping the equilibrium of things going out to things going in has increasingly been faulty.  I clearly have some issues with this, but they remain unsolved, and the fact that resale shops will probably continue as a marketing commodity combined with my mother’s and my support of them, I fear for our future. (I personally hope that the reality of Heaven does not include resale shopping for addicts like my mother and I).

I’ll explain a little before I tell you why this involves man caves which will in turn lead you into my first piece of marital advice.

I am an addict of resale shops for reasonable reasons.

I love a bargain and I love making old things useful and good again.

Antique shops do not suffice in this regard. At least half the fun is already over when you purchase from them and you are almost guaranteed to never get a bargain. Resale shops are the place of dreams: it is possible that you might find something you never expected.

The only thing that might be better would be if the History Channel invited Mother and I to be the American Pickers instead of that obnoxious guy who drives the van around for them on said show.

All that being said: my mother has found some amazing things over her own person course of American picking.

Take for instance the day she brought home this, about forty five years ago, having spotted it from the back of a dusty old store down on Washington Avenue in Little Rock.

She paid $35 for it and it was beautiful to my eyes. The roll top didn’t work but all of the cubby holes had their respective drawers and with the exception of one drawer pull that was missing, all of us living at 105 Oak Hill in the little termite infested, barely held together home we lived in, saw its beauty.

Dad recanvased the roll top and fashioned a pull out of a scrap piece of oak. Mother refinished the desk.  Once the grime of fifty years of toil and labor from whatever rail office or manufacturing plant it resided in  had been scraped from its surface, the beauty of old heart oak, naturally golden yellow, shown through.

I do not remember any conversations about where it would go and there was no such word as mantuary or the  concept of a man cave in the late 60’s, not in Arkansas, but into my Dad’s bedroom, the place where he held court, was where that old roll top desk went.

I will forever have the image of him and that desk in my mind. He would sit in the office chair Mother had found to accompany the desk, one foot crossed over the other on the desk top, leaning on the back two legs of his chair. His workers rough and calloused hand always rested under his chin, the pensive look on his face signaling thoughts far away from us, but I have suspected that oftentimes they were about sobriety or his children or God. The light from the metal gooseneck lamp made a small circle where familiar items lay around his desk: an ace comb, a pocketknife, and just out of the circle, not too far away, a whet stone.

My mother and Dad had a rough marriage, roughest as they get, but I must say that my Mother loved my dad with an astounding love and for whatever social codes were around that did or didn’t support my mother as the spouse to her husband that she was, unselfishly, she gave to my Dad. One of the most pleasurable, giving things she did for him was that desk.

So you can imagine what my thoughts were, when she came back from one of her daily NAM visits, replete with barely constrained excitement, “They’ve got an old roll top desk up there. It looks pretty good.”

Within 15 minutes, we had gone, looked, and purchased. It wasn’t quite the caliber of her initial find from the 60s, but picking has gone different in the 21st century.

I pulled into the driveway just as Silent Bob was pulling in from work, that old roll top desk dusty and big in the back of my pickup, all her cubby hole drawers invitingly taped so they wouldn’t fly out in transit.

Bob, out of his car, walked up to the truck and having almost never expressed any interest in my picking tendencies or my purchases, said this one sentence. “Did you get that for me?”

All wrapped up in that question was a tone of need and want I had never heard from him before.

The worst thing about recognizing that tone was that it was never my intention, from the moment Mother walked in with the NAM announcement,  that the desk was for my husband.

I wanted it’s cubby holes and it’s solid oak self. I wanted its contained environment, surrounded by a top that rolled up and down and that spoke of words I would write and thoughts I would think.

I stood in the truck unlashing the desk and for the briefest of moments I started to tell him.

Twenty five years ago I would have. Twenty years ago I would have failed to notice his need, so busy with my own life as a mother of three sons. Fifteen years ago I might have hesitated a bit before I voiced the no because I was beginning to suspecting that a family isn’t a family if the mother isn’t thinking about the father above her other earthly charges.

But that day, thank God, literally for whatever I may have learned over 30 some odd years, I just said yes.

Because even though it wasn’t true up until that moment, it was true then.

Silent Bob made his man cave anchored by that desk. The whole plan fell out so naturally one would almost think it was predestined. The small bedroom in our house, too small for the boys that inhabited it through the years, was cozy and intimate. Sons bought the TV and a leather chair marks the spot, where on occasion I serve Silent Bob a meal.

I read somewhere that a man cave is a state of mind. I guess so. I do know that all of us need a place that is ours, a place of privacy. Some might say that men need this more than the other gender. I don’t know.  It does seem like a refuge that Silent Bob clings to. Some people say that a gift always cost you something or it isn’t a gift. I know so.

Old woman marital advice #1: Be ready when God asks you to give something. Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out if it’s your turn to give. Give with the right heart. If you have trouble, which is entirely human, then pray about it. If you made the wrong choice in the past, get over it. You are likely to be given more than one opportunity to make the right choice. It turns out to be selfish advice, because in the end it’s you whose heart will be rich and full.

Happy Monday.

PS Bob’s Man Cave