The Light

The light is on.

Last night, when I left the workshop, I checked to make sure it was off. I remember pulling the cord and tripping over a toolbox while feeling my way to the door while cursing the dark.

But tonight it’s on again. Perhaps the result of a visit by Sheila, the real estate agent who is selling Mom’s house. Except for Mom and I, only Sheila has a key to the house. Mom certainly wasn’t here, she’s safely sleeping at the Orange Nursing Home where she moved last month.

It’s strange that Sheila would be here in the basement workshop where Dad, brother Warren and I spent so many hours before he died 15 years ago. This was the classroom, the art gallery, the tool shop, the sanctuary.

We three built every workbench, set up every tool, installed every electrical connection including the single bulb hanging from the ceiling and its little pull cord stretching to the frame of the entry door, thinking we’d someday install a real switch. But reaching for the cord became part of our daily routine. Whoever got to the workshop first would turn on the light. Last one turned it off.

I can’t imagine Sheila being here, pulling the cord. But the light is on.

I pull the cord. Remembering the familiar motion from my childhood. The workshop turns dark again. This time, I’m sure the light is out.

I called Sheila, who said she’s been upstairs, but not in the workshop. She can’t explain the light.

A week later, I stepped into the empty house. The furniture was sold last week and Saturday’s garage sale disposed of miscellaneous items. The place echoes with my footsteps, no Lawrence Welk on the TV, no piano in the den, none of Mom’s paperweights, no collection of wooden horses Dad accumulated.

I open the door to the basement, proceed down the creaking stairs, turn the corner to the workshop. I freeze at the first rays of light on the floor

In the workshop, I look around. The hammer is still where I left it at last visit, sawdust lays undisturbed on the table saw. Nails, screws, safety goggles, dust mask, and who knows what covers the workbench. Everything is as I left it.

But the light shines brightly.




Stories about the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

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Grant Tate is an author, thought leader, confidential advisor, and idea explorer in Charlottesville, VA. His latest book, “Hand on the Shoulder” is out soon.

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