My grandfather was a carpenter who built single-family homes for a living, then transitioned to making handcrafted furniture — like my little sister’s rocking chair, shown above — and whittling knick knacks later in life.
When I think about him now, almost 25 years after he passed away, I instantly remember his fingernails.
They were permanently stained. They always looked dirty. When we would go up to visit my grandparents at their farm in Wisconsin, and Grandpa would come in from his workshop and wash his hands for dinner, he would scrub them with the little brush my grandma bought from the Avon lady and kept by the kitchen sink. But I could still see a thin black line under those nails when he sat down at the table.
I’d stare at Grandpa’s weathered fingers, my little kid brain straining to imagine how much hard work it would take to brand the body like that. I knew he’d renovated my parents’ house back in Illinois, and built the farmhouse we were sitting in — hell, I pretty much assumed he built every house everywhere — and it amazed me that a person could make an entire beautiful building with his bare hands.Continue reading “Construction”