Denes McIntosh: My father’s desk
I have my father’s desk. He gave it to me when it became apparent that he would not be using it again.
My dad has gotten very old. It’s an old desk too, an old school teacher’s desk. Ironic, because my dad was never really a teacher. Didn’t have the patience for it. There is a lot of wear and tear on this desk. That’s one of the things I like about it. I also like that it was his desk.
I don’t like new things very much. They lack depth and character. Old things always contain a lot of interesting assimilation. Assimilation is the process of becoming part of, or more like, something greater. This desk is greater than it was when it was made. It has a lot of living ingrained in its finish and in its wood.
Yes, this was my father’s desk. There are scratches on the face of the center drawer. My father’s belt buckle left its mark there over the years, carving his initials, as it were, into this once formidable tree. My father gave me the belt buckle also. It’s the head of an eagle, with eyes to pierce the deepest fear one might still secretly embrace. I have yet to find a belt to do it justice, but I will.
There’s a ring on the desk top where my father probably set his coffee cup every morning, and another one where he must have set his beer, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, every afternoon; another one, still, where he might have kept his gin and tonic in the evening. I am conscious of putting my coffee cup on the same ring that he did. There’s some kind of psychic connection to him when I do. I’m also conscious of leaving the gin ring just as it is, fully worn well into the grain of my father’s own history.
The finish on the desk top is rubbed thin where he, habitually, rested his forearms and elbows, the sheen having long ago gone from gloss to matte without intention. It makes me wonder what the sleeves of his shirts and sweaters ended up looking like after all those years. There are many scratches from untold and unknown accidents, some other marks and grooves as well, maybe from the carelessness of inebriation, or compulsive digging and tapping, lost in creative thought, or lost, even deeper, in an endless sea of paperwork. The scars of battle with the outer world, and from wrestling, persistently, with his solitary inner self.
When this desk was made, they made a thousand others like it, but through the years it has become the only one of its kind.
Maybe someday one of my sons will be able to say, “This was my father’s desk. This desk is greater than it was when it was made. It has a lot of living ingrained in its finish, and in its wood.”
Denes McIntosh lives in Grass Valley.
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