Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pere Pere: Our Jack of all Trades

I’m writing about my grandparents this month.  (Please consider reading Grandpa, My Mere Mere, and Dessie.)  As I wrote last week, my grandparents have been a big part of my life and they’re in my thoughts frequently.  One of my earliest childhood memories is of the four of them working together as a team, trying to get me to stop crying.  I was staying with my Mom’s parents and they couldn’t do anything for me, so they took me over to my dad’s parent’s house.  Pere Pere carried me in, I remember going through the dining room and the kitchen with him.  That’s the only memory I have of mom’s dad.  Years later, when I shared this recollection with Mom, she said that they’d been out of town for the weekend and that I was teething.  That’s why I was crying and why the four of them had such a tough time with me.  This makes sense; sharp teeth coming in/out.  That was a good reason to be upset.  After that, it was smooth sailing for all of them and I was pretty much a maintenance free little boy. 

Pere Pere passed away on Tuesday, August 26th, 1969.  He was not yet 58.  He was an electrician, but the epitome of a jack of all trades who worked on scores of construction projects in and around southwestern Ohio.  His adult working life was spent on these job sites while asbestos was used to build just about everything; drywall, caulk, joint compound, roofing tar, siding, shingles, filters, pipes, countertops, plaster, and a whole lot more.  Back then, asbestos was considered a wonder material because it is indestructible.  Our family has never known definitively what took my grandfather’s life.  It was lung cancer, mesothelioma, or some other type of occupational lung disease.  Because we lost him too soon and because I renovate old homes, I’m mindful of the hazards of asbestos and Pere Pere is on my mind as much as ever when I start the demolition process. 

On his own time, Pere Pere was a business minded husband and father with three daughters who built new houses for his family and bought old homes when they came with farmland for his livestock.  I grew up playing on those farms, learning to climb in/around his old barns and in the trees he'd planted.  We built hay forts in his old lofts, I played in my sandbox where his cows once grazed, and I built stuff in those trees he left behind for us.  So even though he was taken from us early, I grew up thinking of and appreciating him.

My mom’s dad had some Angus cows and the whole family was proud of this small herd.  Documentation is a big part of this business and my maternal grandparents both understood that record keeping added to the livestock’s value.  However, the way I understand it, Pere Pere didn’t keep these books on a daily basis the way Mere Mere might have liked.  When he died suddenly, she was anxious about his cattle books.  After his funeral she reluctantly turned her focus to the Angus paperwork and books, but to her surprise, everything was current and up to date.  The cows were ready to be sold.  Pere Pere had gotten everything in order before he passed away.  Mere Mere was not only relieved, she was proud of him for doing this.             

My dad’s side of the family traces its roots to the Pennsylvania Dutch and my paternal grandfather was always organized and orderly.  I aspire to be more like this and him, but I’m not there yet.  Maybe someday.  I think I’m more like my Pere Pere when it comes to organization and I don’t really tighten things up until the end of my project.  I know where my tools and supplies are, I’m organized in my head, but not everything has a designated place.  I’m comfortable working this way.  It creates more opportunity for Pere Pere’s influence since I have some of his old tools and they are, at times, spread out amongst everything else on site.  I may have one of his old chalk boxes in my tool belt, or use an old hammer of his if its close by when I need one, or maybe I’ll make use of some miscellaneous hardware that he dropped in a jar back in the sixties.   I’m definitely not as disciplined and methodical as my Grandpa.  I’m a little more haphazard and flying by the seat of my pants… and speculating that in that way I’m more like our Pere Pere as I bounce around my properties.  But I have a way I like to work and I know how to get to the end with a house renovated the way it needs to be.  I think Pere Pere would love helping me with my Pig's Ears.  I sometimes wish he could actually be with me on the job site, but in many ways he always is.

He was an electrician and he may have loved building more than I do.

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