Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Inventor

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," the purpose-driven, peace-seeking polytheist's pit stop on the pebble-strewn pathway!

I just spent 4 hours at a Middle School play practice. My daughter The Spare has the lead role. The only sentence she uttered to me in 4 hours was, "You're not supposed to be drinking water in the auditorium. Get out."

I guess that's two sentences.

Awhile back we at "The Gods Are Bored" decided that Samhain was a wonderful opportunity to yank open the old closet and let the skeletons come tumbling out. We've reassembled some over the last month. Now we're almost finished.

Have you ever plucked a hair from your head and thought that you might need to drill five holes, side by side, across the tip?

That's never happened to you? I can't believe it.

Okay, here's another scenario.

Have you ever been sent into a toxic chemical spill, where the slightest whiff of fumes will kill or disable you for life?

No? Well, aren't you the lucky one! You must live in Montana or something.

Random thoughts on a blustery autumn day? Not at all. You see, my grandfather was an inventor. He worked for the American Celanese Corporation, where he was in charge of creating microscopic holes through which liquid would be forced, turning it into strands of synthetic fiber. The strands of fiber were also microscopic, until they got woven together and became either your grandma's favorite polyester pantsuit, or a cigarette filter, or part of a gas mask or a parachute.

My grandad invented the jet drill. I'm not offended if you never heard of it. Not many people are adequately knowledgeable on the topic of production and use of synthetic fibers.

My dad's father was my really and truly grandad, biologically and legally. (Unlike the mutant branches on the Cracker side of my family tree.) He was born and raised in a three-room log farmhouse on a mountainside, sharing his home space with parents, two sisters, and three brothers. He attended a one-room school, where he met my grandma.

Somehow Grandad found the dough to attend Shippensburg Normal School, as it was then called. He studied for two years to be a school teacher. His favorite subject was entymology. It was in that class, observing the mouth parts of dog fleas through a microscope, that my grandad discovered his raison d'etre. In other words, he thought microscopes were cool.

Grandad spent the first year of his working life teaching in a one-room schoolhouse just like the one he'd attended himself, and in fact not that far from home. He hated it. Loathed it. And I can imagine, because he wasn't a very assertive individual. The kids must have plastered the walls with him.

Then his younger brothers started gloating about the good jobs they'd gotten on the assembly line at the new synthetic fabric plant in Cumberland. They hadn't even gone to college, and suddenly they were making more money than Grandad!

So in he marches in his best suit, asks for an application. On the application there's a list of instruments. "Check the box if you know how to use..."

One of them was "microscope."

Forty-five years later he retired from the American Celanese Corporation, where he'd created a slew of patented tools key to the industry. They gave him a gold watch. When it broke, he stuck it under the microscope and fixed it. (That was his hobby, watch repair.)

From the time I could crawl until his death in 1987, I firmly believed that the sun rose and set just for my grandfather. Don't get me wrong. I adored my grandma too, his wife. She taught me all I know about cooking and flower arranging and gardening and a million other things. She was the hugger, the lap to cuddle in, the smiler and cheek-pincher.

But grandad was the cool, deep water, the tall, handsome pillar of kindness and wisdom. The guy who would take a little granddaughter by the hand, lead her out into the woods, and show her how wildflowers are symmetrical. He carved a hiking staff for me and showed me how watches work. And when I went away to college, and snuck up to see him for a long weekend, there he would be at the unscheduled Greyhound stop on a nearly deserted stretch of old Route 40, waiting in his latest luxury automobile. He always did like a fancy American car.

Have you ever gone to a wedding where there was a cake so multi-tiered, lavish, flawless, and awe-inspiring that it stuck in your brain forever? Well, if grandfathers were wedding cakes, he'd have been that confection.

Look at me. He's been dead 19 years and I'm still sitting here crying, missing him. Not because I've got a hair here that needs five holes drilled in it, but because he was excellent in every single way.


Monday: My Dad vs. God: May the Best Man Win.


Davo said...

am wondering what will happen if (when)Thor gets bored..

Tennessee Jed said...

"-if grandfathers were wedding cakes..."

Dang, Anne that is good writing! Keep up the good work, you seem to be a well built cake too!