A Pattern For Life



I was named after my Grandpa on my mom’s side.  Unfortunately for everyone except maybe the man who runs the funeral parlor, he died several years before I was born.  The only thing I have from him is a name and some pretty cool stories. 

My Grandpa on my dad’s side is a different story.  He’s around 93 (what am I, a calendar?), and he’s still going like a son of a bitch.  Granted, he is slowing down a little bit, but just this last Thanksgiving he was wielding his razor sharp wit and dry sense of humor. 

I guess what I want to say about him is that I really don’t know that much about him.  It’s not that he has been aloof, but he doesn’t open up about his hopes and dreams like a modern-day dandy.  He’s from the ‘20s, as in the 19s, and that’s not something he or anyone in that generation would probably talk about.  But that doesn’t mean we have had bad times.  He’s had some great ones with me in his day.  He has a way of making jokes that are right up my alley, but I think are universally funny because of his dry delivery.  For instance, when we were little a few cousins and I were riding with him and Grandma to visit an uncle.  On the way he said, “The first person to see a coyote gets $100.”

Now there was no way we were going to see a coyote at 4 PM.  But we all started looking.  Then, a little while later he said, “Well how about if the first person to see 100 coyotes gets $10.”

Again, in and of itself it’s not that funny, but anyone who knows him will get a chuckle from that because they will understand his delivery and inflection. 

We were at a 4th of July event one year.  My brothers and I were there and as the fireworks were done, Grandpa looked at us, shrugged, and said “Welp, they shot their wad!”  Then he walked away with a grin that I’m not sure was because of what he said, or if he was just pleased with the show. Naturally, that was quite hilarious to a couple boys in their 20s. 

Grandpa has developed a pretty rad sense of style in his later years, as well.  I recall growing up that he would wear farm clothes like the uber-light blue jeans that look like jogging pants, or slacks when he went to church.  But the last five years or so he bought a black leather jacket, a black and grey scarf, a sweet leather driving cap and a pair of black leather gloves.  Now he looks like a bad ass when he gets out of his car.  Like a fighter pilot back from a mission.  Matter of fact, I told my brother Sam that we should get some pictures of him getting out of a car with a bunch of shit blowing up behind him, and caption it ‘Bad Mother Fucker’.  I’m sure his older-generation sensibilities would be totally okay with both the caption and the photo!

I also know he taught me how to be a wise ass the hard way.  One time we were out cutting weeds.  Nonchalantly, he says to me, “Those are smart weeds.”  Dumb me said, “Why are they called that?”  Grandpa said, “Touch them and find out.”  So I did.  Man, it hurt like a bitch and he laughs and said “’Cuz they SMART!” 

Another time we were welding in the shop and he dropped the end of the rod he was using.  I asked if they got hot.  You can see where I’m going with this.  I still have a mark on my right index finger.

I think these types of pranks really helped to formulate my sense of humor.  But that’s not most important thing I have learned from him.  No, the thing I have learned from him is that it’s okay to be cool, and the best way to be cool is to commit wholly to your principles.  

My Grandpa is a deeply religious man.  He gets up every morning and says a half hour of prayers.  He probably prays more at night than most people do in a week.  He has been active in his parish for almost 90 years.  His back troubles him now, and at Thanksgiving Grandma said he was upset because he couldn’t make it to church.  He tries to go almost every day.  That’s dedication. That’s faith.  That’s cool.  Grandpa is unapologetic for his beliefs.  He doesn’t rant from the mountain tops.  What he does is more effective.  He leads by example.  It’s okay to have conviction, and its okay to make your own decision and then live by it.  Even when I have completely disagreed with him and Grandma on things, I still respect their conviction and their ability to apply their beliefs and faith to their lives, every single day.  Some people might call it stubbornness.  But that’s a cop out description.  It’s way more than being stubborn.  It’s a complete

The copper domed cathedral.

commitment to an ideal.  That’s impressive, and that’s something I don’t see nearly enough since I’ve moved to a city. 

Maybe the greatest thing he shows me is patience.  When Grandpa retired from the farm, he needed a hobby or he probably would have driven Grandma up the wall or to an early grave.  So, he kind of got into woodworking.  I don’t know where he got the idea.  This spring I was helping dad tear down a building and he was telling me how Grandpa had built the hog house by himself.  It had pretty elaborate cuts and rafters that were obviously made as needed.  So obviously he was familiar – he knew his way around a 2×4.  But none of us had any idea that he possessed in his fingers the ability to manipulate wood the way he has done.  

He started making clocks; simple clocks with two different colors of wood.  I still have the one he gave me for Christmas, somewhere.  They were very good, but I have heard him say that he had no idea what he was doing.  (I don’t believe this.  He did a good job of faking if he didn’t know.)

Next, he moved on to some puzzles for grandchildren and some slightly bigger clocks.  He built three or four large marble towers for the kids to play with; you know, like the game Mouse Trap, only four foot tall and about two feet on each of its sides.  They would have cool things like water wheels, a xylophone, just neat things he would incorporate to make noise or give it a personal touch.  These things are legit – giant wooden structures that let the marbles entertain his grand sons and daughters.  And you can see the joy on his face as he watches his grandkids play with the toys he has built. 

From there he just went over the top.  And this is where patience comes into play.  He started doing scroll work.  For those of you who don’t know what scroll work is, it’s when the artist takes a piece of wood, traces a pattern on it, and then slowly, almost painstakingly cuts out the lines on a band saw.  He did some simple ones that were used for hot pads and flat wall hangings.  But then he made something amazing. He made a 4’x 4’x 4’ cathedral with all scrolled wood.  The amount of detail that went into making these boggles my mind.  The amount of dedication, patience, and faith in his hands and the tools he was using is beyond rare, and borders on it’s own religion.  His creations are works of art.  My grandpa is an artist of rare talent. 

I feel like a bad grandson sometimes for not getting back home often enough to visit.  I know I have missed out on some great memories.  I know, though, that he has taught me some of the most valuable lessons that I have learned.  Please don’t confuse him teaching me the lessons with me actually applying it to my life.  I have a looooong way to go.  But at least now I have the patterns to trace.

I’ve included a bunch of photos of the stuff he does.  Scroll down to see some amazing works of art.  My personal favorite is the Stations of the Cross in the banner pic.  The details and emotion on the faces in each tile are so amazing to me. I’ve included a slideshow and the gallery where you can click each photo to expand and see the detail much larger.  These were cell phone photos.  Sometime I’ll take better ones and add them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


~ by maxaverage on December 6, 2011.

One Response to “A Pattern For Life”

  1. Max… thanks for posting this beautiful tribute to Grandpa. His artworks are remarkable and should be shared with the world! His smile is infectious and his humble humor can so easily be missed unless you are waiting for it! This post made my day!


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