catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 7 :: 2008.04.04 — 2008.04.18


A chisel to remember him by

I've got a chisel downstairs in my toolbox that I value quite a lot.  I do not value it for its practicality, though it is practical —I just used it to chip through the concrete floor in the pantry last week when the slab heat system started leaking.  I do not value it for its aesthetic qualities, though I have to admit that, as a chisel, it is quite a beautiful tool.  I certainly do not value it for the money it would provide me with were I to sell it, as I'd be lucky to get five bucks for it.

I value that chisel because after my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law told me to pick something from his toolbox to remember him by.  My father-in-law was an excellent high school teacher, but he loved tools and worked summers panting and patching.  I worked with him one summer on the renovation of a home for the elderly.  Before the job started, we went to a wonderful Chicago hardware store (where the owner knew my father-in-law by name, though he had only met him once or twice before) and bought every kind of chisel they had.  The job we were to be doing required chisel work and my father-in-law believed it was important to find the right tool for the job. 

One afternoon, I was holding the chisel that is now in my toolbox, starting to clean up, when driving rain began to fall.  We had left some tools on a ledge thirty feet up the side of the building.  My father-in-law wrapped a drop cloth around himself and started up the lift, his hair blowing in the crazy wind.  He looked for all the world like King Lear gone mad on the moor, ascending into the storm.

When I think of my father-in-law, I think of him reading, I think of his words, I think of him selflessly helping others, holding hands with his eyes closed and praying—but I also think of him laughing into the driving storm.  It reminds me more than any other mental image, of the energy he brought to every part of life.

I keep the chisel because when I hold it, I think of my father-in-law, and I laugh.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus