June 17, 2009

My Father's Workbench

Just below is a shortened version of a story sent to me by a blog subscriber named Martin Brossman. He's titled it, My Father’s Workbench. You can read the whole story at Martin's blog on the topic.

His story speaks of not only the power of fathers in a boy's life, but the attraction for all males to tools, building and fixing things, and what might be called "sacred male space." If you want to get any boy's attention, just haul out the tools or gear.

Please let me know what this story cooks up for you. You can send me an email or post your reactions in the comments area of this post on the Man-Making blog.

On my 50th birthday in April, I spent the day taking both my parents to two doctor appointments, an exhausting time for them and me. At the end of the day, I went into the basement of their home, the Washington, D.C. house where I grew up, to find a quiet moment. Finding myself standing in front of Dad’s workbench. I got out my cell phone and took a picture.

Later when I looked at that photo, I knew why I had choked up a few weeks before when I stood in my just-built garage in Raleigh, when I was deciding where my new workbench would go. Looking at Dad’s old bench made me realize just how deeply I have always wanted a place to have a home-made workbench like his, one where I could work on household repairs and make things. Most of all I wanted a big sturdy bench where I could properly mount my red vice that I have carried with me from three places I have lived.

I realized, too, that creating my own workbench is connecting me back to the time as a kid when I worked with my father at his workbench. It was where Dad always started house jobs from, and where we ended house jobs by putting away the tools. It was part of connecting with my Dad, who worked a lot but still had time for us to do things. It was not the cleanest workbench and that is part of what made it great. . . .

From the “men’s work” that I have been involved in, to my work with The Triangle Men’s Center, I have learned a lot in the past decade or so about the mental wounds that can occur in men’s lives due to an absent or abusive father. I have met so many men who never had this element in their life, who never had a Dad who included them in house jobs, or experienced a family workbench that held the tools they used together. . . .

Even though my father is on dialysis and much weaker now, I know he will be glad to see a picture of the workbench I am going to build in my garage. It will be ready to photograph when I attach that red vice that mounts with 4 big bolts on its right-hand corner. Over time, my workbench will collect its own holes and nicks from the projects I imagine happening on it. I’ll have to remember to take a picture years from now.

Thanks Dad, for introducing me to the workbench. You weren’t just teaching me handyman skills, you were modeling patience and confidence, and how to carve out a small space for peaceful enjoyment . I hope to keep sharing this valuable message with other men who might be missing the importance of a workbench in their life.

Martin Brossman is the founder of The Men's Inquiry and the author of Finding Our Fire: Enhancing Men's Connection to Heart, Passion and Strength. He can be reached at: Martin@CoachingSupport.com


  1. Thanks for all you do to help Men's lives and supporting Boy's in becoming mature adults. I have enjoyed your blog and friend ship for years. I hope people enjoy my post.

    Martin Brossman
    Author of "Finding Our Fire"

  2. Frank F.1:36 PM

    (Emailed comment copied to his famiy)

    Amy, Peter, Paul, Carrie, Tony and Joe,

    The owner of this site is a friend who has done wonderful work on mentoring young men through his books, website, workshops, campouts and so much more. His works go beyond a national level today and hopefully this wonderful short story contributed to his website may be one to which you can relate in some small way.

    This story has brought many memories to me about my father's (Grampa Pete's) sacred "tool box". The first and most vivid memory was when (not that it happened often) I broke one of his tools. I would in my fantasy desperately propped it together for him to pick up and "break" himself...uncanny how he always knew it was my unhandy work.

    God, how much more I love him today and how I wish he were here today.

    My gift to you on Father's day. I am proud to be your father. Each of you has contributed to my 73 years of growth in ways far beyond all the learning I experienced outside our family. My prayer is that you will know the love I have for you is reflected from a wholesome and nurturing father.

  3. What wonderful stories you men have shared! I feel so full of joy to know that there are men like you in the world sharing these stories with your children and grand children. You are helping me to remember my stories with my dad.

    Joy & Peace,



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