Monday, June 11, 2012

LEARNING WAYS



By Arthur H. Gunther III
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I am finally my grandfather, and I have long aspired at that. Here was a man, and I am looking back almost six decades, who could use Yankee ingenuity to fix almost anything, and he was smart enough to call a friend more experienced when needed, rather than be a renovation un-realist.
He had many tricks up his sleeves, some, no doubt, learned from his father, a textile industry machinist. For example, if a door was swinging shut by itself, he would take out the hinge pins and bend them a bit with a hammer and reinsert. Problem gone. My grandfather, who lived in a country village during the Great Depression, also made do, using scraps of lumber and accumulated nails and screws to fashion thingamajigs that were just that -- jigs for catching chipmunks or for filtering the juice from squeezed apples.
He cut his lawn by hand and trimmed the moss from sidewalk slabs with his wife’s old paring knife, always rehung on the same hooked nail in his garage. This was a patient fellow, and though he was not a talker and certainly not an explainer, he could teach much if you watched. Though I was and remain a day-dreamer, apparently I observed enough to, years later, become my grandfather, in a way.
I realized this yesterday, a lazy Sunday not unlike those I recall visiting my grandfather at his house just a few miles away from where I wasyesterday. And that was at my son’s house, built, fittingly enough when my grandfather was still a young man. In fact, he passed this home, in Upper Nyack, N.Y., every time he went to picnic at Hook Mountain on the Hudson River, hardly realizing that his namesake, the fourth Arthur Henry, would live there.
I was at my son’s home because his lawnmower -- not the push kind my grandfather kept so well-sharpened -- would not start. A look at the carburetor and the fuel tank disclosed a clogged line, which we cleaned and then reassembled all the works. It took just 20 minutes, and the satisfaction of successful repair that didn’t require hours and which had no complication added to an already good day.
It was while walking back to my car that I realized this was the sort of fix my grandfather would take in stride, that his “tool box” of can-do held many solutions. My own is hardly as full, and I will never have the man’s patience and thoroughness, but somehow the genetics have grabbed hold, the observations have become education and the apprenticeship is over. I am now a journeyman just because things are meant to be that way for me, just as you are who you are. I will probably never achieve master craftsman, but I wouldn’t want to take my grandfather’s place anyway.
Since life is meant to be passed on among the living from our forebears, it warms the heart.

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