The call came this morning.
It really wasn't unexpected. Whenever I get one of those rare calls from my mother, I half expected the reason was to tell me that he had passed. It's that aching feeling of tension that the ringing phone was going to tell me that he was gone.
My grandfather and I were from very different worlds. He spent too much of his life underground. His knees, shoulders, hearing all showed that.
His world was experienced through the muscles, the bones. His world was wrenched from the earth, shaped by his hands, pulled from the grime of machines. It was a world of men, a world that is as incomprehensible to me as mine was to him.
I knew he was a ladies man. You know the one: Dashing, attractive with a strong temper and a brooding, unpredictable temperament. The man of mystery that all ladies ask about.
He was faithful to one woman, my grandmother, until the day she died. Their relationship was a war between personalities, that explosive combination of friction and passion that made it one of the strongest bonds I have ever seen.
He mourned her until the day he died. Whenever I visited, the discussion eventually drifted around to his Nettie. That distant look came over his failing blue eyes, the panorama of memory clearly playing on his face.
My grandfather and I shared one thing: The powerful mood swings that were fueled by the same catastrophic failure of our brains to handle the world in a reasonable way.
I found peace through medication. Grandpa started with the numbing power of rye to help take the edge of his mental anguish. And when he was forced to make a choice between the drink and his life, he chose his life and left the drink behind.
He took the restless energy that drove him to drink and channeled it into the furniture he restored.
People from far and wide brought him pieces that were lost, beaten, destroyed. In his hands, their inner beauty was exposed.
Each piece of furniture was a piece of his life that he was atoning for. A mistake that he was trying to repair. A memory he was sharing. Those memories are scattered now, among family, friends, strangers. And with each memory shared, he ensured that he would live on.
His best gift to me was to help me realize that the mistakes of youth can be restored, repaired, but memory reminds us that they can never be undone.
I miss you grandpa. Travel in peace.
William A. Kinnear - 1919-2009.