My Dad and His Tool Shop

by Tess on March 21, 2010

Creative Commons License photo credit: The-Lane-Team

The following is a guest post from Hulbert Lee, author of "From Bottom Up.If you haven’t already, please make sure you subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter.

In my mind right now, I’m standing on a broken, cracked sidewalk. I can hear the noisy sounds of the cars zooming back and forth on the main street. It’s always busy and the cars never stop. I see a blue whale. The complete side of the pawn shop wall is a drawing of a blue whale that seems to be swimming deep down in the ocean. It’s not a common site you’d see everyday. Growing up, I’ve always wondered why those people would paint the side of the wall like that. It kind of reminds me of someone buying a used car, getting some paint, and drawing a painting over the car’s frame. 

Across the street from this pawn shop, on the corner, is a fax machine store. It used to be part of my dad’s tool store, until we had to lease it out to other people in order for me and my brother to go to college. It’s no longer part of the corner property, so it’s kind of hard to access. To find my dad’s store, you can’t be in the back or you’d never see it. Instead you’d have to be driving out on the main street. And if you were quick enough, you might be able get a glimpse at a shabby old sign that reads, “Sun’s Tools”.


“Hulbert I need you to go to Makita and pick up some tools for a customer. Can you do that for me?” my dad asked. “Yeah, no problem dad,” I told him as I hung up the phone and got the keys to my car. This was great news. Whenever my dad told me to go pick up tools at the manufacturer, this meant that he had made a big sale to a customer, but didn’t have the tool in his shop yet. Basically, the customer would order a tool from my dad, my dad would call me, I’d go pick it up from the manufacturer company, deliver it to my dad, where he would then sell the tool to the customer. The process from leaving my house to getting to the manufacturer company, to getting to my dad’s store, and back to my house takes about 1 and ½ hours. 

The drive, however, seemed longer than expected today. There’s usually so much construction going on. I see a lot of giant trucks on the way, and it always feels sort of weird to squeeze through them driving a little, white Honda CRV and all, but I manage to make it to the back of the manufacturer company. I enter and see these men in their working uniforms. They see a clean shaved, skinny guy wearing a light blue t-shirt and dark blue basketball shorts. They look at me.

“Hi… I’m… here to pick up tools for… Sun’s Tools?”

“Will call for Sun’s Tools!”

I sign the papers. They bring out box filled with tools and close the door. Ugh! These tools are heavy! I manage to carry to box of tools down the steps and load them in back of my car. I drive off and pass the construction area. There happens to be more traffic than usual today, and I wonder if I’m able to get these tools back in time for my dad.

Finally, I get to my dad’s parking lot. I drive over the bumpy asphalt ground and pass through the chain fences. My dad hears the car and walks out. With a big sigh, I get out of my car, open the back door, carry the box out, and set it out on the back table for my dad. He took this box and placed it on the counter inside the store, and walked back out.

“Is there anything else dad?”

“No, that’s it, thanks.”

I was glad I was able to deliver the tools on time before his customer came to get it. It’s always been somewhat of a hassle to make money this way, and I’ve always wondered whether or not it’s all worth it. Day in and day out, I see my dad sitting at table waiting for customers to come in. To pass time, he works on the crossword puzzles in the newspaper or talks with best friend, Tom, an 84-year old Japanese repairman who has been working for my dad for 18 years. He’s retiring this month though. My dad says it’s about time.

There are days where there are customers though; the customers are usually greeted by my dad’s thick accent. We get excited for a moment, but the customers usually leave the store with their hands empty. “Thank you, have a nice day!” my dad would tell them in an enthusiastic voice as they were opening the door to leave. Other times, we get lucky. A few people might come in and buy a couple of drills bits, sandpaper, maybe even some grinding wheels, and a couple of dollars are made. It’s enough money to buy dinner for me and my brother when he gets home.

Dinner is always a nice time we share together. Me, my brother, and my dad sit around at a table and usually we eat takeout like El Polo Loco and a side of steam white rice that my dad makes. Odd combination I know… And although I enjoy writing, verbally, I’m quieter than my dad and my brother. But still, I enjoy hearing their voices. It’s nice to know in a world of strangers, there are people at home who still care about you and want to have a conversation about what went on during your day. This moment that we have together makes the house a little warmer. Today, however, the table is quieter than usual.

“Hulbert,” my dad says.

“Yeah?” I reply.

“You know those tools that you got for me today?”

“Yeah, how did it go?”

“Humph… Well today I was in the store waiting, and these two young guys come in the store.”


“One of them wants to return a tool to me. He keeps telling me that he wants to return the tool. I tell him directly that he can’t. The tool that he had wasn’t from our store. It was from another one and he would have to return it there.”


“But he didn’t leave me alone. He kept wanting to return this tool and I told him no many times. I told him that he would have to go somewhere else, and he kept asking me, where… where? After talking to him for a while, they finally leave. It was then I saw our customer from a distant walking towards the store to get the tool he ordered today.

I got prepared to give it to him and I went to the counter, but the tool was gone.

I stop eating. “What…? What did you do then?”

“I started looking through all the shelves and looked around, but nothing. Then I remembered while I was talking to one of the guys, we were away from the counter.

“You mean…” I pause before I continue, “You think the other guy stole it?”

“Yeah, I think so. I went outside to chase after those two guys. But they were gone.”

“What about the customer who was walked in the store?”

“Well, he came in and asked, ‘Where are my tools?’ I said to him, ‘Sorry… I… I can’t find them.’ I had no choice but had to reorder another set from Makita for him and told him that he had to go pick up the tool there. I thought I could make an 80 dollar profit today, since the tool cost $189 and I was trying to sell it for $269. Instead, we had to order another one and basically lost 120 dollars.”

He made a laugh after he said these words, but I could tell that it wasn’t one of those laughs you make when something’s funny, it was more like one those laughs you make when know you have made a foolish mistake.

I clenched my first, and I gulped. I tried to force out a laugh too to comfort him, but I couldn’t. The only words I could find myself saying to him was, “It’s okay dad. Just try to be more careful next time.”

The next morning, my brother’s still sleeping. Me and my dad wake up early and have coffee and pancakes together at the breakfast table. No words were exchanged between us though. We just sit silently with our heads down eating our breakfast. I decided to turn on the TV; it was better than having awkward silence. I left the remote on the table in front of the TV and went back to the breakfast table. The Call was on – a show about investing and people talking about how money is exchanged in our world. For fifteen minutes, me and my dad watch them engage in conversation that’s filled with vibrant energy, as we slowly eat our pancakes and drink our coffee. I’ve always noticed the good looking business suits these people wear, and the colorful, elegant ties they have on. Suddenly, my dad gets up and walks to the door. He picks up the key, goes to his car, opens the garage door, and drives off for another day at the tool shop.


Boldness, to me, isn’t always about facing future danger. To me, it’s about moving on even when we may have a burden of pain inside of us every single day. Life is a constant struggle. You never know what’s going to happen and sometimes, the most unexpected moments can happen to us that carry with it nothing but misfortune. My dad has been working at that tool store for 25 years, around the same time I came into his life. I admire his ability to have worked all these years, even though, deep down, I know how his business is going.

Someday, I’ll have to support my own family.

From the first day my dad started working at that tool shop until the day I delivered those tools for him, I understand that supporting a family isn’t easy. But it’s those small moments that you have with your loved ones that make life worth living, whether this is driving 1 and ½ hours to potentially help them make a sale or drinking coffee for 15 minutes next to them in silence. Knowing that there’s someone willing to do anything for you, just so you can get a chance at life is something that I wish to carry down to my children one day.

But in order to carry on, I’ve learned we can’t be weak when things aren’t going the way we want them to, we can’t stop in our tracks when suddenly face a wall ahead, and we can’t run away from our happiness when somebody else out there wants to steal it away from us; we have to be able to take whatever life throws at us and be able to wake up the next day, walk out that door, and keep on working. That’s what I learned from my dad. I’ve taken a piece of his boldness and put it inside myself to do the best that I can with it, so one day I can give the same opportunities to my children, as he has given to me.

Hulbert Lee is an aspiring writer who writes about the rising stories of influential people over at He enjoys finding about ways to inspire people and help them out in life. If you haven’t already, please make sure you subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter.

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    { 19 comments… read them below or add one }

    Topi March 22, 2010 at 1:58 am

    What a beautiful story, and a lovely way to illustrate your point. We never stop learning from our parents, and one of their best gifts is to show us how to face life courageously. I’ve seen my Dad do a number of different jobs to support his family, from managing a shop to working in a laundry, to travelling as a salesman. No matter what the job was, he always applied himself 100% to doing the best job he could. For him it wasn’t about what the job required of him, but rather what he could give to the job. Sometimes the best lessons are right in front of us. Thanks for your story Hulbert!


    Mark March 22, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Hulbert, thank-you for a well written story and a great lesson. It takes a strong person to get up every morning and keep going despite what walls may appear.
    .-= Mark´s last post…The Power of Silence =-.


    Paul March 22, 2010 at 9:44 am


    A lovely inspiring story, highlighting how regardless of what life throws at us we always have our family’s support. Also, how holding onto something that has past and we can do nothing about, serves no purpose.




    Hulbert March 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    @Topi Wow, looks like our dads have something great in common. They do what they can, despite the kind of job or jobs they have, just to support us. You’re right, sometimes the greatest lessons are the ones that are provided by family. Thanks Topi.

    @Mark It definitely does take a strong mentality to wake up and face the obstacles we have everyday. Thanks Mark.

    @Paul Yeah exactly. Family (well most families I’d say) will support us despite whatever life throws at us. Thanks Paul.
    .-= Hulbert´s last post…Jim Carrey and Desperation =-.


    Hilary March 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Tess and Hulbert .. good to see Hulbert here .. loved your story and the remembrance for you .. that your father made on your life .. a good example for your children, and all peoples you tell the story too.

    I love the way you’ve incorporated Tess’ brand into your last para and blended it into your own life .. so interesting .. thank you
    .-= Hilary´s last post…Spring Cleaning and Passion …. =-.


    Patricia March 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    It takes so much courage to get up day after day and take care of one’s family and business no matter the challenges and negative encounters.
    Your good writing and story reminded me of my father in 2 ways – he died 30 years ago – My father was a good carpenter and fix it fellow and he always took great care with his tools and supplies. He could always set a door properly and hang windows with level grace. He could fix anything around the house and the car, but that is what he did for fun.
    Everyday he got up and worked at making education possible for every individual in the USA…no matter their skill level. He was fired from several jobs and then when he was hired by President Kennedy, that fine man was assassinated just weeks later.
    I look now at how amazing the schools would have been in the USA if my father had gotten his law passed and his ideas understood…..
    Thank you Tess for sharing Hulbert’s good story telling with us today…
    .-= Patricia´s last post…A Nice Tall Drink of Water =-.


    Hulbert March 22, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    @Hilary Thank you for your comment. I had to find a way to incorporate “boldness” in the end. I didn’t want to just ramble off with my personal life unless it was connected with the theme of Tess’ blog in some way. ;)

    @Patricia I’m sorry to hear about your father. It’s nice to have similarities between your father and mine. Now I can see the perspective of other blogger’s family members and how they have influenced them in a more positive way. Another person’s ideas would add a big difference in the world. I’m sure you’re dad’s ideas would of too. Thank you Patricia.
    .-= Hulbert´s last post…Jim Carrey and Desperation =-.


    simply stephen March 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Hulbert…your story had me captured from top to bottom with such an eloquent segue to boldness and life lessons.

    Your Father’s ability to forgive, his perseverance and dedication to family and customers is apparent. It’s also clear that he passed along some strong life skills to you.

    My Father and I are day and night. We have never seen eye to eye on anything. We are cordial at best on a good day. I made sure I built a strong relationship with my daughter because and perhaps in spite of this – so a positive was achieved.

    BUT WHAT I REALIZE is how dedicated and hardworking my father was. As a dentist for almost 40 years his “tool shop” was equally stressful and required a steadfast commitment to clients and family. He got up every day and worked hard. You’ve shed a light that I’ve never been bold enough to acknowledge.

    This week I will tell my father just how much I admire his fortitude, despite our differences.
    .-= simply stephen´s last post…community solutions =-.


    Hulbert March 22, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Awesome Stephen. Thanks for sharing your experiences with your dad and the part where you mention that you cordial with each other at best. I don’t know what it is about father and son, but it’s more difficult to express our emotions to each other. I mean me and my dad aren’t those people that give each other hugs, and we kind of express our love towards each other by just talking. The respect is definitely there. And… I’m glad this could relate to you man. I think you’re dad will be happy to hear that you appreciate his hard work.
    .-= Hulbert´s last post…Jim Carrey and Desperation =-.


    BK March 23, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Beautifully written Hulbert! Life is not always sunny days, there are rainy days too. Moving through sunny days is easy for most people but the challenge comes in rainy days; the many inconveniences in moving forward. And yet rainy days are the days when we have to continue moving courageously forward even when the heart is heavy. As John Gokongwei, Jr. said, “The important thing to know is that life will always deal us a few bad cards. But we have to play those cards the best we can. And we can play to win!”
    .-= BK´s last post…A Better Us Through Self-Discipline =-.


    suzen March 23, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Hulbert, this is a very moving story! Thank you so much for writing this! It speaks of the power of love, family, and forging ahead no matter what. Your dad has the Just Do It spirit and it is awesome! And very much the zen attitude of Chop Wood—Carry Water. Some people misunderstand that as being complacent, but it is a very strong and healthy mind/person that lives it! And how lovely that you see the comfort and love of coming home to family. It is a blessed sanctuary indeed!


    Ryhen @VS Mind Power March 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Hey Hulbert, first, let me wipe the tears rolling down my cheek. Ok, just kidding. hehe. You’re really an awesome storyteller, did you know that? I can still remember your article about Stallone. Man, you’re really inspiring! Your post reminds me of my dad. He has been working abroad ever since I was a little kid. Now that I’m a man, he’s still there. LOL. But I do realize how tough that could be for someone who has three sons and a loving wife (my mom).

    I’ve taken a piece of his boldness and put it inside myself to do the best that I can with it, so one day I can give the same opportunities to my children, as he has given to me. – I’ll definitely remember this one.

    Keep up the good work, brother!

    Peace and respect,
    .-= Ryhen @VS Mind Power´s last post…Correspondence: Why The Macrocosm and Microcosm Are So Fugging Awesome =-.


    Hulbert March 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    @BK Thank you for this. Life is not always going to be sunny like you say, and moving through like gloomy days is a challenge, but it makes us stronger. I like that analogy with bad cards. We are dealt some good cards and some bad ones, but no matter the situation, we still have to try your best with them in order to have chance at wining.

    @Suzen Thanks Suzen. My dad has been working there for around 25 years. He has gone to work for as long as I remember and barely has days off. I admire him for his spirit (even though he doesn’t show it) and his mental strength. It’s a comforting feeling to know that there is family supporting you and vice versa.

    @Ryhen Haha… nice one. Thanks for the compliment man. I try my best with story telling, but sometimes it can get hard! That’s pretty cool that you’re dad works abroad; you probably learn to be a lot more independent and responsible with life. I’ll try my best to keep up the work. It’s good to see you so often!


    Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord March 24, 2010 at 6:07 am

    What a touching story, and I’m so glad you shared it here. Thank you, Hulbert, and thank you, Tess!

    I read this and had a warm, peaceful energy surrounding me as I did. That feeling of ‘home.’ Of family, small moments that lead to big or long lifetimes… It’s all important. Every moment is important, and everyone in our lives is important.

    I love how you said your dad’s boldness is part of you. Makes me think about the pieces of my parents that I carry within me — pieces I may not even be aware of yet.
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last post…Being Open To The Moments =-.


    Fatibony@Self help Motivation March 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Beautiful captivating and inspiring story Hulbert , it’s amazing that when the going is tough is the time to keep going and we need all the strength within us to do so…. Bless your lovely Dad . It’s Nice to see you here ..
    .-= Fatibony@Self help Motivation´s last post…The Charismatic You ? =-.


    janice | Sharing the March 25, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Thanks, Tess.

    What a touching story, Hulbert. Thank you. It drew me in and captivated me, like watching a movie. I felt such warmth and respect for your father, and pride in you. You were raised well, and you’re right to cherish those precious moments together. My dad is 85 now, and it’s the small, silly, special things that mean the most, like making him laugh every day when I phone in the morning and launch into a Broadway tune or something by a crooner.
    .-= janice | Sharing the´s last post…Why Haiku? =-.


    janice | Sharing the Journey March 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Sorry about the address, Tess. Brain must have blipped as I was filling the boxes.
    .-= janice | Sharing the Journey´s last post…Why Haiku? =-.


    Karl Staib - Work Happy Now March 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Great story. We all have our burdens. It is really how we carry them that defines our lives. If all we do is complain then we aren’t taking the time to find the value in our lives.
    .-= Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s last post…10 Ways to Simplify Your Work Day =-.


    Wilma Ham March 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Awesome story to tell us that boldness and commitment are everyday occurrences and NOT something that is only for other people who we think have a bigger and better life.
    My father had a shop too, we all helped, he loved his shop and he loved having us help. It sure was a great way to understand about making a living and how great team work adds love and ease to doing one’s daily tasks.
    Love Wilma
    .-= Wilma Ham´s last post…Wilma on The past only exists as thoughts =-.


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