The daunting task of assembling two IKEA furniture pieces for my 15-year-old son’s bedroom lay before me. Large cardboard boxes of different shapes. Inside, I knew, contained white paper “instruction” sheets that are a series of drawings clearly intended to cleverly measure one’s intelligence.
Bags of bolts, washers, doohickeys, fobs and frick and frackery are taped together with barely plausible explanations for their purpose described with item numbers that takes a Hubble capacity set of eyeglasses to read.
The boy who picked out these items did, in his defense, help carry them into the house. And then, with conviction, told me he needed to eat and vanished.
The Daughter who, just a week earlier had helped me assemble another IKEA furniture purchase and, to her credit, assembled a shelf on her own, was gone with a friend, unaware her Dad had unwisely chosen to return to the store for more punishment.
It was at this point I decided a short nap was in order before I got to the mission at-hand. Thinking, optimistically, that the boy would join me after my snooze and we would enjoy another unique bonding experience in our relationship.
As I began to nod off into my middle-age mid-afternoon siesta he peered down at me and said, “Hey, I am going to go for a walk.”
I groggily smiled and said something like “The moo cow is a chocolate marshmallow” or a close approximation of something similarly profound.
Upon waking there was no son. Confused after my nap (to be honest, I’m confused before my naps) I looked around for a couple of minutes to get my bearing.
It was at that point I thought I heard someone or something calling me. It was vague, barely audible but persistent.
More specifically, it was Hemnes, Beddinge and Millberget.
Unpronounceable names, to be sure, but ones that make no pretense about caring about your level of engineering skills, patience or emotional maturity.
They just beckon to be built.
So, like the Dad I am I went to the voices.
My heart raced when I saw the boxes and containers.
Hemnes the Desk had two boxes, including the descriptions “1 of 2” and “2 of 2”.
Next to Hemnes was Beddinge the Sleeper Sofa. It, too, had two boxes, similarly labeled as Hemnes the Desk, but with accompanying plastic wrapped mattress and mattress cover.
Millberget the Swivel Office Chair, mercilessly, was only one box. And, smugly, I looked at it and declared out loud and to no one in particular, that I would begin with her.
Her? Yes, everyone knows that Millberget is a female name at IKEA. If you don’t then I really don’t have time for you.
At IKEA I had looked at The Dude and chuckled and said, “Well, at least that one is probably already put together.”
His burst of laughter startled me and made me wonder if he really was a nice boy.
He looked at me and simply said, “Good luck!”
Carefully opening the box, it became obvious that Millberget had conned me with her come hither beckoning that she was just a simple and unassuming lady. For inside there were enough parts and allen wrenches to build a small North Korean nuclear submarine.
Wiping my brow, simply for effect as the sweat hadn’t started yet, I got down to work trying to decipher the instruction booklet that may have also doubled for a farmer’s “How to make your own alien crop circle” blueprint.
An hour and a half later, Millberget the Swivel Office Chair became a member of our family. Without any thanks from her I simply rolled her slowly into the corner of the room.
It was at this point I knew that Hemnes the Desk was becoming clearly aware I was no different than millions of other Dads who had acquired virtually no building skills throughout their lives.
He didn’t say it but just by looking at the imposing “1 of 2” and “2 of 2” boxes that held him and his murky soul I knew he intended to take me to Hell and back.
About this point I casually wondered where The Dude was and texted him. In response I got “I am walking back home.”
Being his father’s son I knew that was simply code for “I know what you’re doing in my bedroom with Hemnes the Desk and I want no part of that Evil. Count me out. And, oh, by the way, can you order me a Papa John’s pizza.”
Hemnes, freed from his boxes, taunted me with his three-bags of hardware and dozens of pages of detailed instructions on how to hurt oneself while theoretically making a desk.
I would be lying if I told you at this point I did not seriously consider putting it all back and running back to IKEA and telling them that Beelzebub himself resided inside.
But, that would have required me to figure out how to put everything back in the box, tape it up and load it back into my truck.
Without the son who had forsaken me for a walk and hot cheesy and dough sustenance from some guy named John who was not his Papa.
So, I strode forward. Committed to making an uneasy peace with Hemnes and getting him built.
Four hours later, with pieces still remaining that will haunt my memory forever in not knowing where I was supposed to have put them, Hemnes the Desk stood complete.
There was no gratitude. No high five and celebration. He expected to be built. And now he was.
Which left Beddinge the Sleeper Sofa.
Perhaps it is because I spent much of my career in politics or the fact that I lied to the dentist all these years about flossing I suddenly felt helpless in the face of Beddinge.
First, I wonder if Beddinge is the Swedish word for bed and second, is the “e” silent or is the pronunciation of its name really “Beddingy”.
For the cautious reader you have likely noticed that I refer to Beddinge as “It.”
This is not mere coincidence.
Beddinge is an “it” because, frankly, it is really neither couch nor bed.
At IKEA it looked like a gray pancake that, when folded, resembled a taco that had reached its expiration date.
Unfolded it looked like somebody had put unappealing looking frosting on a pan of brownies that hadn’t really been cooked long enough.
Beddinge, exposed to the sunlight, I reluctantly must admit, shocked me.
Two large pieces, two medium sized pieces and a single bag of nuts and bolts, an allen wrench thingy and a thing that was euphemistically labeled, “wrench.”
Could this really be this easy? Was it possible that Beddinge was IKEA’s way of giving me hope where despair had begun to seep into my life?
The first couple of sections of its only 6-page instruction sheet were actually easy to understand. I began to smile. I got a little excited that I might live to see my first grandchild after all. That I wouldn’t be stuck in the bedroom of my oldest child longer than it would take to pay off the mortgage.
The second part of the project took only 30 minutes to screw in the four screws and really who shouldn’t learn how to turn one’s 53-year-old body that way to hold a screw and washer and nut at that angle?
The third part, the one that required me to take two diametrically opposed pieces of metal covered with wood slats and fabric, and conjoin them with one another, could have broken me. Could have simply caused me to question my faith in God, America and the existence of the other dimension in which Donald Trump is exactly the man we need to lead our nation forward.
But, I was determined to bring Beddinge to heel. It was not my time to succumb to its mocking disdain for who I am as a man – and more importantly, a putter together of stuff from IKEA.
It was not that time. This was not the place. This would not be the day.
Three hours later. With a wrist that may need some form of medical attention from the jarring consequences of being caught between a spring and two pieces of gray metal and a son who was happily filled with pizza and a daughter who bid me adieu for the comfort of a bowl of Ramen Noodle Soup, Beddinge was done.
As I looked over the assemblage of new additions to our household I felt some level of pride that Hemnes, Beddinge and Millberget and I had bonded in some strange and inappropriate way.
Perhaps we had begun our relationship on the wrong foot. Maybe I had been too harsh on them and my expectations of how we would work with one another.
After all, wouldn’t they know provide untold hours of enjoyment for my son. Wouldn’t Hemnes and Millberget give him the sanctuary he needs to study, get good grades, learn more about the world around him and propel him into receiving scholarship opportunities for the world’s most renowned schools, colleges and universities.
And, Beddinge, dear, dear Beddinge, wouldn’t it give my son the magnificent gift of sleep that would allow his brain to grow and develop in ways that only Einstein could appreciate?
Yes, this was a day I could have been defeated. I could have fallen to my knees and looked up the Heavens and cried “Why, God, why me? Why have you forsaken me?”
But, no, this day – on this day – I conquered the IKEA demons in me and around me. On this day I got the better of Hemnes, Beddinge and Millberget and tamed them and their insolence and brought them fully into our family.
It has been said that in the fog of war one often loses his sense of what is really happening and that what one things is reality really is the opposite of what one is experiencing.
But this day there was no fog of war that caused me to lose my way or fail in my objective and mission.
The mission is completed. I have prevailed.
Hemnes, Beddinge and Millberget are mine.
Now, what to do with those damn boxes!!!