Satellite antenna.

Martha Stewart, He Is Not

The satellite dish had stood in my father's yard over twenty years.

It watched over us kids growing up, moving out to explore the world and start families of our own.

In it's day, it was the landmark of our neighborhood, shining aluminum pointing into space, as it cupped the sky, casting a giant shadow beneath its twelve foot expanse. Passerbys would slow to admire its massive size, many would stop for closer inspection.

We would gather in front of the TV, my younger brother flipping through the channels as the dish groaned and turned outside, searching through space for a new signal. We were infatuated with TV land, thousands of channels awaited us, if we could only figure out what buttons to push when.

Too soon, it was outdated, replaced by new inventions. It was quickly forgotten, where it silently stood representing a bygone era. It collected leaves in the fall, caught snow in the winter. It rose proud in the spring storms, then lay quiet in the summer heat.

Divorce and retirement found dad living alone in his old house, passing time on many projects. During his daily excursions he could be found poking around in our small town's community dumpster, or behind the car wash, looking for Objects d'Art which only he could breathe life into once again. His garage was soon brimming with other's castoffs -- broken, unwanted things waiting for their chance to become useful once again.

The satellite dish loomed over my father and his projects, as he took parts off broken lawn mowers, using them to bring life to another old mower. It waited patiently in the background watching him fix old clocks, or rebuild a broken rocking horse he had brought home. It stood silently while he crafted an old headboard into a bookcase. He tinkered day and night, creating things with his skilled hands, hands never slowed by time or age. As soon as he finished one creation, he would begin another.

One summer day, I came to visit, but something was missing from the yard.

The satellite dish was gone. In its wake was a large hole, followed by drag marks slicing across the lawn. The yard now looked oddly barren, reminding me of a Thanksgiving table missing its centerpiece. I could almost feel my memories fade as I gazed solemnly at the bare spot in front of me.

I followed the path of churned dirt and crushed grass around the side of the house, to the back yard. My mother would have had a fit if she were still here and seen the mess dad had made.

There it was.

A giant spacecraft had crashed in the backyard. The neighbors would surely think my father had gone mad. I could see myself calling the old folks home for a tour in the very near future. I took a closer look, trying to understand what I was looking at.

Framed by the blue sky and the old pecan tree, stood the satellite dish, reigning in new found glory, standing proudly with a new purpose.

Never at a loss for creativity, never at a loss for time, my father had welded an eight foot pole into the center of the inverted dish. It was now a giant upside down bowl. He then cemented it into the ground upright, creating what was perhaps the world's largest patio umbrella!

He stood beaming beneath, BBQ tools and grill at the ready. He had set in its shadow his old patio chair, and a small table. He had what no man in town had, perhaps what no man in the state had -- an indestructible relic of days gone by given new meaning once again by his skilled hands.

An old memory was now ready for new memories. And he had done it alone.

The former satellite-dish-now-turned-patio umbrella was once again watching over us. As time passed, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would play below, as if under the petals of a giant flower protecting its nectar. It sheltered us against the sun, protected us from the rain. It gave new meaning to holidays and birthday parties. Folks continue to stop and gaze at it in awed silence.

Dad's masterpiece now proudly bears the colors of his alma mater, and tiny white lights are laced around its broad rim -- lights which cast a warm, almost other-worldly-tin-foil glow around my father as he sits quietly beneath, reading a book, perhaps thinking of days gone by, or maybe even planning his next invention.

For which I patiently await.

~ Shelley Madden ~
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[ by: Shelley Madden, Copyright © 2010, ( shellmadde at ) -- {used with permission} ]

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