The old wheelbarrow brings back memories of my father

The old wheelbarrow brings back memories of my father

For many years, we had an old wheelbarrow that I used when cleaning out flower beds and doing other yard work.

It was a heavy-duty wheelbarrow that belonged to my father when he owned a residential construction company in North Alabama. The wheelbarrow was still spread out on some cement patches with the word “SEABOL” written on its side. The construction business had been closed for at least ten years, and my father was living in California when the wheelbarrow came into our possession, when we bought our first house.

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For years, the wheelbarrow sat in the backyard, leaning upside down against the fence, because we didn’t have a garage or storage shed for it. However, with its large wheel and heavy-duty steel construction, I loved using it in the yard because it reminded me of my father and my childhood spent visiting construction sites with him.

We lived in that house for 15 years, and when it came time to move, the weather had gotten to the wooden handles of the wheelbarrow and the big rubber tire had dried out. My husband tried to throw the wheelbarrow away, as it was pretty useless. But I collected the various rusty and rotting parts and put them in the garage of our new house, convinced that one day I would rehabilitate that old wheelbarrow. After all, the wheelbarrow was probably older than mine, but it was more powerful than the ones I could buy at the store.

And the wheelbarrow has been in our garage for the past three years.

I pulled it out last weekend, as I was thinking about removing some “unwanted corner” in our garage to make sure we have space to park our cars in the garage this winter. I had purchased new hardwood and spray painted wheelbarrow handles shortly after we moved in, but had never been able to fix the wheelbarrow.

When I took the wheelbarrow out again, I re-evaluated the wheel, noting the new parts that still needed to be ordered, including a new tire, new axle, and brackets. The existing parts were rusty solid, meaning a bolt cutter would be needed to remove individual parts. But I was determined to make it work again. Somehow, that old wheelbarrow took on a new significance, since my father was no longer with us. He died in 2019.

I came up with a plan to sand down the rusty areas and some dry concrete. But when it came to the “SEABOL” painted on the side, I hesitated. I didn’t want to draw on those letters. But it would probably take a long time to put tape on it, and it’s not worth it, I think. However, I would hate to hide a sign where my father was once there, especially when there aren’t many things left for him these days.

It was a reminder to me, that no matter how long it has been since a parent has died, grief lessens, but it never goes away. Sometimes, especially when working on home repair projects or doing something as simple as fixing an old wheelbarrow, I feel closer to my father in some way. There are times when I need that, and I wish he was still here.

I made the decision to paint the entire wheelbarrow, but reproduced the ‘SEABOL’ name again after it had a new coat. So, as I turned the wheelbarrow around to begin my work, I looked closely to see something I had never noticed before: etched into the steel belly at the bottom of the wheelbarrow, my father had engraved his name and phone number, likely in case the wheelbarrow was stolen from the work site.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Even if I paint over that old wheelbarrow, there will still be something of my father in it.

For me, it was a reminder, that no matter what I owned that once belonged to my father, no matter if things were painted over or dismantled, his imprint was still there. A part of him is still with me in my heart, every time I look in the mirror. I miss you, dad.

Lydia Sipol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Contact her at

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