A daughter charms Dad into day labor

My buddy Lichtman brags about these dates he has with his adult kids about once a month. They keep in touch by seeing each other for brunch or a movie. I like the idea. It's a way of keeping up with our very busy sons and daughters. As the adage goes: Keep your enemies close and your children closer.

"And when we're done with the hike," the lovely and patient older daughter says, "maybe you can help me organize my closet."


Classic bait and switch.  Lichtman never mentioned that part. Perhaps his kids are not quite so arch. Maybe you can help me organize my closet. My daughter says it like a statement, not a question.


The Middle Ages: In the March 1 issue, a Chris Erskine column about remodeling his daughter's closet referred to another dad as Glickman. His last name is Lichtman.

As noted in the past, parenting is never over. Where I once spent Christmas mornings on the floor assembling dollhouses, I now spend Saturday afternoons installing complicated closet organizers.

I arrive at her apartment to find her smelling of coffee and saloons, up at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m., her hair like a British garden.

She is glad to see me, though, for she has negotiated a pretty good rate for a day laborer in Los Angeles: lunch. We decide to skip the hike and get right to work.

Good thing too, because this is what I find: Cleopatra's closet, bulging with the gifts, bangles and flowing robes of an entire civilization.

"Come in," this forest of fabric seems to say. "I won't hurt you."

Yep, classic bait and switch.

I immediately text my wife: "All good here. Shouldn't take longer than four months. Pay the mortgage on the 28th; bookie on the 30th."

In minutes, I get a text back: "She so plays you."

Thanks, honey. I'd never realized that.

So together, my daughter and I begin to clear out the most overstuffed closet I have ever seen.

"Can we eat now?" I say when we finally finish.


"No," she says. "We have to go to the store first."

By "store," she means Home Depot, which fortunately is never busy on a Saturday afternoon. We park in Remote Lot C, and take the shuttle in.

In clearing the closet, we mangled it a bit. So we need paint … and anchor bolts … and the closet organizer itself. We deploy like Navy SEALs around the store, which is about the size of a municipal airport. As the mission progresses, I start to have Home Depot flashbacks. There is no end to the projects I have screwed up using the store's DIY (destroy it yourself) materials.

I have a complicated, 30-year relationship with Home Depot. It represents to me the loss of Americana, replacing the corner hardware store and making a simple trip for a lug nut into a half-day adventure.

For that alone, Home Depot should have a happy hour.

On the other hand, I appreciate its prices, even if the service occasionally falls short. For the complicated closet kit we bought, the patient clerk forgot to include only three key structural elements. Not bad.

Back to the Depot my daughter races, while I begin setting things up. Doesn't help that she doesn't seem to have a set of instructions. Just some info that I can barely see on her iPhone.

Because of that, I now have to cut 11 metal shelves with a $4 hacksaw I'd purchased, thinking we'd only saw a piece or two. Using a $4 hacksaw to size up this closet is the equivalent of building the Chateau de Versailles with a butter knife.

Whatever steel I had remaining in my once-powerful forearms, which I was reserving for giving my daughters away in church, begins to fade. My cramps have calluses; my calluses have cramps.

Estimated total labor: 11 dad hours, over the course of one long day. Cost of materials: About $500, not including food.

But in the end, my lovely and patient older daughter has the closet of her dreams, with special racks for boots and shoes, three tiers of clothing and a little vanity made of special Home Depot teak (a special demi-wood grown in parking lots in Cincinnati).

And what do I get out of it all? The biggest meal you probably ever saw, an acre and a half of pure oversized burrito, the color and texture of the moon.

And this, of course: my lovely daughter happy and smiling. Like she did back when she was 4.