My grandpa likes to build and fix things. He is an industrious old coot. When I was a little kid, my grandpa was the man who fixed everything around our house since CoorsLight was usually drunk or playing Final Fantasy or both. He unclogged pipes, painted, built shelves, installed appliances, constructed sheds, made forts for us with detailed blueprints, and fixed everything that wasn’t running at a perfect, grandpa-approved level. For as long as I can remember, he has carried a massive Swiss Army Knife in his pants pocket which has been used for everything from whittling marshmallow-roasting sticks to fixing eye-glasses to opening birthday presents (why fumble with scotch tape when there’s a utility knife available for the taking?). It was sacrilege in our family to call a plumber, carpenter, electrician, or any other tradesman who might get the job done in half the time and without cutting the power to the entire street. Grandpa and his Swiss Army Knife were all we needed.
Of course, what with the aging and dementia, his handy-man skills have slipped a little to a level I might describe as “slightly helpful; mainly life-threatening”. My moving into a dilapidated shanty of an apartment has kept him up at night just dreaming of fix-it jobs he can terrify me with. He has showed up at my apartment with step-ladders and electric drills after driving the 2 hours to get here with his 4-way flashers accidentally on. He can hardly climb a flight of stairs, but he’ll balance on top of one of my flimsy Ikea chairs to confusedly tap at a light in my kitchen that just won’t turn on. This summer I had some nasty, brown, flaking water-stains on my bathroom ceiling and my grandpa showed up at my door with a can of special sealing spray-paint which he used to fix the problem and also accidentally cover my entire bathroom’s contents, like my towels, shower curtain, and toothbrush, in a fine white layer of paint.
My grandpa also does Tai Chi. I know that this is off-topic but stick with me, here. He started several years ago, probably as a way to socialize with other bumbling elderlies, and now he continues it to keep in shape and get out of the house. It’s all quite cute, really. Sometimes he’ll even demonstrate a move for us, and gracefully, slowly, move his rough handy-man arms about his face and bend his knees with a fierce concentration in his eyes.
After several years of advancing through regular Tai Chi, my grandpa has finally advanced to sword Tai Chi. Which apparently is Tai Chi with swords. Can you please for a moment just picture a room full of pale, shriveled senior citizens gracefully waving swords around their bodies? Now that you’ve had a good laugh, I will come to the point of my story.
Everyone is supposed to provide their own swords, so everyone in the class bought these little, retractable plastic swords that the school had available for purchase.
Everyone but my grandpa.
My grandpa went out to a lumber store and purchased a piece of balsam wood and some gold and silver paint. He made blueprints and measured and cut the balsam in the shape of a sword and then sanded it again. Then he painted the handle of his sword gold and the blade silver and laid it to dry until it was ready for some gentle Tai Chi wielding.
My grandpa has the most kick-ass sword in his Tai Chi class. Only my grandpa would carve his own sword out of wood.
I’m shocked that he didn’t cut his hand off during the making of this, but I guess he did just have cataract surgery.