Sunday, December 11, 2011

Life and loss

Machinist at William Doxford and Sons

I know I haven't posted much lately, but that doesn't mean things haven't been happening. If anything, it has been too hectic and busy to keep up with the regular blog posting. For those of you seeking regular updates, I do apologize.

The biggest thing that has happened since my last post is my Grandfather passed away. It was a pretty big surprise, as he was in excellent health for his age, and even though he was up there in years (in his 90s), it was still unexpected.

My grandpa has always been a kind of personal hero to me for as long as I can remember. He was one of those people who experienced the great depression first hand, and it left him with a sense of thrift and economy that never left him. He was super resourceful, and hardworking in the extreme. He had his own small business breaking up large boulders into tiny rocks so they could be hauled away. His hands were huge - from a lifetime of manual labor, and his wedding ring so big it was too large to even fit on my thumb. Those hands were like a catcher's mitts, or bear paws. He worked as a machinist for over 25 years at the same company, then spent 16 years working at General Motors. I remember him taking us on a tour of the factory when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and he held my hand with a paint marker to put a pinstripe on a car. It's something I'll always remember.

It was just magical to me, the kinds of things he did. He could fix or build just about anything mechanical. He never threw anything away. During one visit many years ago, I built a complete 10-speed bicycle out of spare parts he happened to have just lying around in the basement. The quick-release was broken on one of the wheels, so he showed me how to machine the broken part out of metal.
He built the house in which he lived, and in which my mom was born. Grandpa dug the entire basement by hand, and built the house a little at a time. At first there were only 2 rooms, but little by little it grew. The driveway, which must be 70 feet long was poured concrete on a hill, one hand-mixed batch at a time.

He built boats in the basement, from small speedboats to a large cabin cruiser, the plans for which he got from Popular Mechanics magazine. Grandpa loved being out on the water, and I imagine when he wasn't fishing he was probably thinking about fishing. Whenever I went out to visit, we would go to his old boat launch where he had moored his vessel. Eventually he got rid of the boats, as it wan't safe for him to go out on his own any more.

I always think of his inventions. He had rigged up a little knob on the wall next to his recliner that allowed him to turn the antenna on the roof for better television reception. The table saw he used to make things was something he made himself, with a huge electric motor, and a car jack used to adjust the depth of cut. He made a special lawn mower out of a 5-gallon bucket, a round snow sled an electric motor.

I don't think Grandpa had a pervy bone in his body. But I often find myself thinking, what would Grandpa do in this situation? How would he approach this production problem? When you are stuck with something and your time or resources are limited, how would he have solved it? I guess even though he isn't there to visit or talk to on the phone, my grandpa will live on in my memory of him, and in my imagination. He definitely inspired me to think if something can be done, then you can probably figure out a way to do it. Patience, persistence, resourcefulness. Keep trying. You'll get there eventually.

I'm not a big believer in the afterlife or anything, but if there is something beyond this existence, I hope Grandma was up there waiting for him. And wherever Grandpa is now, I hope the fishing is great.


  1. I'm really sorry for your loss. I only ever knew one grandparent (mums mum) as the others had passed away before I was born and in the case of my mums dad when she herself was a toddler. The grandma I had was my best friend and I still miss her and always will.

    I am sure your grandpa knew how much he meant to you, and am sure there will be memories of him in many things you turn your hand to in the future :)

    best wishes to you

  2. thisgirl, Thanks so much. I appreciate it! I think my grandpa knew how much I loved him, and I will always hold dear my memories of our time together.

  3. Grannybob (my childish name for my grandpa) was cut from the same cloth and it sounds like they would have gotten along famously.
    My abiding memory is being allowed to sit (quietly) in his tool shed and watch as he worked his lathe. The sounds, smells and love that filled those times live with me now and will forever - that's the point - the loss is sad, no doubt, but holding and refocussing your love through those treasured memories will keep your grandpa alive in your heart. The strength to go on with a smile when we think of our loved ones is to found in those cherished moments.