Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A long time ago, we visited Grandma and Grandpa, and Grandpa showed us the new carvings he'd been working on. Visiting Grandpa's shop was always memorable for me, and as he showed us the bigger, more sophisticated pieces, my unsophisticated eye was caught by a small carving, maybe three inches tall, a little blue jay. More stylized than realistic, and painted, unlike most of his pieces. A simple little thing, but I fell in love.

I asked Grandpa what he was going to do with it, and he smiled and said he didn't know, and I could tell he knew I wanted it. I didn't want him to think I was greedy, and I don't think I could ever ask an artist to give me even the smallest work of his hands. We went home, and I put it out of my mind. When I unwrapped my present from Grandpa the next Christmas, and I saw that little blue jay carving, I don't think I've ever had a gift that made me happier.

Grandpa died back in 1998. When I got the news, time stopped. I hung up the phone and walked to the window. They were unremarkable moments, everything my eyes fell upon were things I'd seen every day. I looked out of my apartment into the courtyard, and heard the call of a blue jay. I stared blankly into the sunlight, my mind empty, and the jay fluttered down onto the sidewalk, the sunlight irridescent on wings like lapus lazuli. He looked at me looking at him, and cocked his head, hopping a bit, then he flew away as my eyes filled with tears.

Ever since then, blue jays bring Grandpa to mind. Daddy died on the same day, four years later. The pair of jays that nest outside my window at work give me pause every time I see them.

A few years ago, when Mom was moving to Schertz, one of the dogs got into one of the cardboard boxes, and one of the things in that box was my blue jay. Mom tried to glue some of the broken off splinters back, but finally asked if I just wanted her to send it to me. I said that would probably be best, but when I saw it, all I could do was cry and put it back in it's wrappings.

The second and third times weren't much better. But finally I was able to take a look at the damage and Mom's repair. Most of what she'd done I decided I'd need to undo, so I started in with an exacto-knife. I cut away the glue and shaved some slivers off some of the edges so they'd fit better. I glued the tail back together, and set it aside. I wasn't sure how to proceed, and it was still pretty emotionally draining work.

Yesterday I was putting some things back in the tool box that we'd used in setting up the new TV. And I saw the wood glue. And I got an idea.

I pulled out some tooth picks, put down a paper towel, and started dripping wood glue into the cracks where things had to be glue back, and to fill the pits where Ollie's teeth crushed in the wood. The glue softened the wood some and I was able to push some things back into place. Today I pulled down my acryllics and my brushes and began to paint over the glue.

I'm not the artist he was; I haven't put in the time. And I don't have the paints he used so I couldn't match the colors just right. But you'd have to look a lot closer to see the damage now. It's fixed, and I can display it with his other carvings. It means so much to me, and I'm so happy I'm crying. :-P

I was talking to Tim last night about my repairs, and I asked him, at what point, as I poke and prod and glue and paint, does it cease to be my grandfather's work?

Tim answered, "It's a collaborative art project between your grandfather, you...

"and your mother's dog."

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