Friday, October 5, 2012
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Day 2 - What is the hypotenuse of a right angle?
And he called me his mathematician, it was perhaps one of my favorite roles in life, maybe the one I miss the very most. I can still remember the way his eyes would light up, a smile washing over his face and he would chuckle that one of kind laugh before he would ease deeper into the language of building, which of course required a lesson in math. It started with the same question every time, at every encounter. He would scoop me up into his arms, or drop right to one knee where ever we were and then he'd ask "What is the hypotenuse of a right angle"? And I would respond in a voice that only a 3 year old can mimic "It's the square root of the sum of the two sides squared". Mastery, I had it down and I thirsted for the wisdom that he shared at every corner. This was the way it always started. From the time I could speak he was teaching me how to crunch a number, how to engineer a bridge, how to build a house, how to do the figuring from within my own mind without ever having to grab a pencil and paper. I was his favorite student, teacher's pet, and I think I knew it.
My grandpa John, the foundation of my world, the one that remained strong and intact even when others cracked and crumbled. In my humble opinion there was nothing he couldn't do. He dreamed big but lived small.
Sometimes I hear the stories of his younger years, and more recently an old friend blessed me with a dvd made of home movies from the 50's and 60's. It seems maybe he had a wild side a country mile wide but that was long before me. He raised his family in Fort Seward operating John's Lodge, the local watering hole. He had a small plane back in the day and though I never flew with him I have heard many a fabled tale over the years. Eventually he moved to Willow Creek and bought The Forks, another local watering hole. And that is where my story began.
I love him for the trips we made to the "gasoline store" for candy and the "two bits" he gave me to catch the ice cream man. For the way he'd let me sit on his lap and steer the car as often as I liked. I love him for his apple pie and the cinnamon crust that I still cannot make. I love him for long, lazy summer days at Aunt Alice's pool where he'd throw quarter after quarter into the deep end to give me lessons in diving. For the way he loved to sing really old cowboy music and play Anne Murray and Willie Nelson on the record player. I still can't listen to Georgia or Snow Bird without tears rolling down my cheeks. I love him for his trouser pants, pastel button up shirts, bald head and thick, black framed glasses. I love him for showing me that it really can get so hot outside that you can fry an egg on the hood of a car. I love him for the mad blackjack skills he taught me in the midst of math lessons, and the fact that he always made sure I walked away from the kitchen table with my pockets full. I love him for his barbeque hamburgers full of bell pepper and onion, and for the way he loved to pick up Chinese take out from Raleys and would spend 10 minutes telling the cashier a story, even if there were 3 people in line behind him. I love him for the driving lesson he gave me in the big yellow van.....an attempt to teach me to parallel park. I told him there wasn't enough room but he insisted I "gun it". I never argued with him so I gunned it right into the back of a parked car. He just laughed, he always just laughed. I love him for taking me to DMV on my 16th birthday and debating the system because he could see no reason why I should have to go to pay the fees and go to driving school when he had already taught me how to drive. I love him for letting me stay up late and watch Johnny Carson. And for giving up his place at her bedside so I could sit and hold my grandma's hand as she slipped off to heaven, and I know he did because he knew how much I needed it. I love him for his big green parka and the budweiser can that he always had in hand. I love him for the way he would pull the giant, wooden spoon off the kitchen wall and tell me to take "big bites". I love him for the way he would break two eggs in a glass and swallow them down raw because it was the quickest way to eat breakfast. I love him for the way he would get up when the phone rang at 3 a.m. to come rescue my sister and I from the phone booth on the corner when my parents were fighting. And for always making sure we had a couple dimes to keep in our shoes under the bedroom window in case we needed to call him. I love him for being my ride to school every time I missed the bus. I love him for standing strong the day I blasted him with the words "I hate you" while I stood broken, enraged, angry, disappointed, abandoned and coming off too many days without sleep, ready to quiet everything in my world and make it all go away. I love that he was the one who could speak reason and love to me long enough and hard enough to make me listen. I love him for his washing machine hugs, forklifts, Eskimo kisses and eye winkers. I love him for reminding me that even though I didn't walk down the aisle with my graduating class the way I should have, I was still his Valedictorian. I love him for the way he cut my bangs with his barber clippers, at an angle and way too short. I love him for waiting up to see me while I made the long, late drive the night before the surgery that eventually took him away. I love him for begging me to bring him a beer and help him escape at the hospital in the days before he passed. I love him for letting me stand on his feet while we danced when I was a little girl, and for the way he danced with me again the day my grandma left us behind. I love him for giving me my grandma's wedding ring and accepting it back when he wasn't ready to part with it yet.
This man, tall, skinny and seemingly frail was also the strongest man I have ever known. The foundation he laid for me is the one I can always fall back on when a little remodel work needs to be done. I love him for never doubting, never judging, never making me second guess where I stood in his heart because when I looked at his gentle, kind, sweet sparkling eyes I always, always knew I was number one and that was something I could take with me anywhere.