I am writing today about a stage in my life, no new project, no new tools, very little to do with woodworking at all honestly. To my friends, Im giving you an honest glimpse into my sheltered southern childhood, please bring your big boy panties and dont get offended. If you care to….humor me.
When I was an infant, my grandmother married her 2nd husband, Ken. She had been divorced for a few years, went on a trip to california, and came back with a husband. The family was shocked to say the least. To think she would remarry … after only knowing this guy for less than a month!?
Ohh man.. this guy….a vietnam vet. with the mouth you would expect. He was loud, he had an answer to everything, and he was a yank to boot…great job granny.
Growing up in Alabama you can imagine the mumblings following this man around. Listening to my family, I had little to no respect for the man. There is a saying ” the yankees left, its the damn yankees that stayed “(in the south)
He dabled in just about everything, never having a steady job for long. He lived on his army retirment, and spent most of that on new toys/tools. What woodwork he did was never refined. It was often out of square with plenty of sawdust in the finish. One summer he even burned down the family barn while burnning some leaves. He said things about my grandmother, I could have went my life without thinking about. He could make a sailor blush and a nun cuss.
When I was about 12 he helped me and my brother make a birdhouse. I would be lying if I said It sparked an interest in me. I enjoyed using the tools, but spending the time with this man was not high on my list of things to do. As I got older he would pop in to offer some unrequested “help”. As a teen he built me a ramp for my skateboard that was barely wider than the skateboard itself. I pretended to be greatfull, and then me and my friends mocked him when he left. I rented a mobile home from he and my grandmother when I first left “home”. It was right next door to his shop. I could’nt even check the mail without having a 2 hour conversation!
Then came a time when I moved away from the 15 acre plot we shared with my grandmother. I now had my own family and my own opinions. The few times a year i had to put up with him became more bearable although he still got under my skin. He would offer me advise on my business, as he once was a owner/opereator truck driver.He opened up to me a little from time to time, telling me about his times in panama and vietnam. He even told me once that we were the only family he had known. I began to realize how all those things I had grown up hearing and thinking, where misguided. He was making an effort to be involved in my life, more so than the other men in my family.
Last summer he invited me out to see his new grizzly lathe. We chatted for a bit about woodworking, as my interest was turning to an addiction. I explained my love for handtools , he laughed it off, explaining a table saws capabilities to me as if it were foreign. He then asked me if I would like to have his shop when he passed. Guilt hit me like a blow to the stomach, I could feel the blood rushing from my face. I wanted to say no, I felt undeserving. I squeked out a “sure” and really dont remember much else from the rest of the conversation.
Im sure you can guess why I say it is an end of an era by now. This Wednesday will be a first for me. It will be my time first serving as a paul bearer. After a short battle with cancer, Ken gave up the ghost yesterday.
When someone close to us dies, we have a seemingly sudden realization of our own mortallity. We are so distracted in todays society that we often forget this world is temporary. I would like to offer you with this story, that opportunity to look around at your circle and realize what you have at this moment. Look at what is neglected. And look at what misguided judgments you may be making.