My grandfather, and the tools he left behind


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"Was your grandpa good at making things?" Judah asks.

"Extremely," I say, stopping to look at a picture of my grandpa, dad, and me. It used to be in my grandparent's little dining nook. Now, it sits on my workbench, amid screws and tape measures and other tools my grandfather gave me. 

Tools I've just recently gotten back because they've been in storage for the past five years. 

"What's wrong?" Judah asks.

"Nothing" I say, "I'm okay."

"But you're crying," he says.

"I just miss 'em is all," and Judah wraps his arms around my neck.

“Thanks,” I say, patting his back, “I’m okay.” Then, we get to work, measuring and cutting and creating. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we talk, but most of the time we just work, side by side in the sawdust and under the dangling yellow lights. Working with my grandfather's tools.

Then, somewhere in the night, the song Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison comes on and I stop to text my dad because it's his favorite song, and whenever I hear it, no matter where I am, I think of him and me working and singing and laughing. A lot. Because if there's one thing my dad and my grandfather have in common its that they love to work hard and laugh even harder.

I look at the photo again and can almost feel my grandfather's arms around my shoulder. Only it isn't mine anymore, it's my father's, and I can't even imagine how he must feel, how much he must miss his dad, and how hard it must have been when his father's tools were stolen from his garage in the middle of the night. 

But then Judah asks if I could cut some wood for him, if I could hold this piece while he screws his plane together, and if I could tell him a few stories of Grandpa, since he doesn't really remember him anymore. 

"Sure," I say, and I tell him of how fishing with Grandpa on Lake Michigan was my favorite, especially when we didn't catch any fish, because he could tell the greatest stories and we'd just be there together, sometimes in silence but always together. I tell him about the time we went on a trip to Canada and Grandpa could't keep any minos in his hand because they kept escaping through the hole where his finger was cut off. I tell of how he drove down from Michigan just to watch me play a Friday Night game and how much it meant to me, because he'd never seen me play before. Then, I tell him about my grandfather's laugh, how he would squint one eye and sort of cackle out the greatest of all laughs. The kind that, even if the joke isn't funny, you laugh anyway.


Judah listens, asks a few clarifying questions, then reaches over and grabs my grandfather's tape measure. And he does so without thinking, because he doesn't know my grandfather used that same tape measure to build decks for people in his community, that my grandfather made furniture for each of his grandkids, even when he was months away from never picking up another tool again. That my grandfather was a master craftsman. 

But I do. I also know that he was a man of intense and extreme character, that he loved and supported his kids beyond measure, and that, when he died, his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids flew and drove from all over the country to be there - no matter the cost.

Because he was our grandpa. 

And our grandpa was great at making things. The tools just happened to be there.


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