One of the most common memories I have of my dad is when he would be doing improvement or repair and I would be hanging around aimlessly and ask questions. Like we are in the basement and he is working on something and I hear water going through this big pipe along the ceiling joists and I ask "Daddy, what's that pipe for?" His answer would ALWAYS be "To make little girls ask questions." Damn, damn, damn, I certainly did HATE that. Even though the books were not written yet about such things, I was pretty sure that if you had a kid inquisitive enough to ask such questions you should encourage the curiosity by providing a good and cheerful and honest answer. Yet, I am pretty sure I phrased those questions such that he could use the easy canned answer. For example, instead of saying "Where does that pipe come from?" or "What does that pipe do?", I would remember to ask what it was "for". "What's that hole in the floor with the motor over it for?" I would ask about the sump pump. "What is that tool for?" I would ask of the big wrench with the screwy adjustment. "What is that wire in the wall for?" Or he would be reloading shells and "What's that part for?" Or he'd be tinkering with some engine: "What's that belt for?"
And so we would play the game. I would ask using the right phrasing, he would answer with a great big grin, I would get a little annoyed, I would keep asking only maybe in different ways, now that I had afforded him the privilege of the annoying jokey family-traditional answer, and after a few rounds, the number depending on his project deadline and frustration level, he would put down his project and give me a damn good and thorough answer. Lead me to the spot under the kitchen where the pipe came down from the sink and lead me around to where it turned the inside corner with the basement wall and explain how that sharp ninety degree turn shoulda been a couple more gentler turns because egg shells from the garbage disposal get stuck there and lead me to where the pipe goes under the stairs and along to the point where I had noticed it and asked and along further to where it joins a larger pipe that goes out the basement wall and into the septic tank. Or regarding the sump pump, he might take the flat lid off so I can see down the hole and run the shower next to it and show me how the float rises and eventually triggers a switch that turns on the pump that pumps the water to the big pipe to the septic tank. Yeah, I had a pretty good understanding of the bowels of a house and the workings of a farm shop and the mechanics of some farm machinery and how to load shells and how a watch worked and how a car was put together and an odd and varied assortment of how things worked and what was inside things and what caused what to happen by the time I was old enough to not think it was cool to hang out and watch my daddy do stuff.
And sometimes even, when my kids were little, I'd take a crack, just once in a while, at answering their questions with "To make little boys ask questions" though I didn't have the heart to carry on quite as long as he did, and I had all that book learning about fostering curiosity and all. Daddy, I miss you. Thanks for all the 'splainin' you did. Even if I had to put up with the "joke".