“Would you just hand a child a saw?” someone recently said, forget who, but all I could do was mentally address that rhetorical question, because 30+ years ago, I was handed a saw and taught how to cut wood by my grandfather.
When I was little, my dad worked full time; my mom worked part time in the city, and my grandmother watched me during the days that neither could be with me. Those days in my memory smell like sunshine, freshly cut grass, pink roses, and Body Buddies cereal.
As the sun went down, my grandfather would come home. He was a soldier who went to work later as a meteorologist for the Air Force. I had no idea as a kid, just how important and life-saving his work was. How he’d already served our country in so many ways, before I’d ever even met him.
Part of why I never knew that is because he was a humble man, my Pop Pop. When he got home at the end of a long day (that I also didn’t realize as a kid, sometimes was a lot more than a day), all he wanted was to enjoy the house and home he’d built for his family.
I knew that he was tired – maybe because I was fresh off my napping days, but even at four years old, I got that Pop Pop was tired when he got home. As a kid, I felt shy to take up any of his time or energy.
But he always made time and energy for his only granddaughter. I will never smell a deli and not think of how Pop Pop took me down to Ward’s Deli as the sun went down, even when I was so little as to be in a stroller, just because I was there, and he wanted to spend time with me, even if the only time he could spare that day was on errands.
I will never smell a work station without thinking of how at the end of his day, Pop Pop would go down to the basement, to the little section of the house he’d helped build, that was his and his alone. It was small, but full of his tools and wood and meteorology records on the shelf. I don’t know what he did exactly, while purposefully working away, but I know that he let me accompany him, during his down time.
And I will never forget how he handed me a saw – an old one, dulled from the years – and patiently taught me how to use it to cut a block of wood. Trusting me with tools meant for adults and in the time he grew up, men only.
Maybe (definitely) I’m still learning what it means, but that is the day my Pop Pop taught me that I could do anything. He taught me so much more, during the next 12 years.
I miss you every day, Pop Pop. Love you forever, and I’ll see you on the other side.