When he died on an early morning in February, it was discovered that he had not changed the world. His life ended with no signs of greatness among his belongings. Nothing.
Thirty-five words in 8 point type in a square box on a back page in a local newspaper marked his passing. And his accomplishments.
It was well documented that he was a welder with great, cracked stained hands, and skin stretched taut across his head. In his later years, he had worn a peppered beard with no mustache, and large semi-square glasses that shifted from clear to gray as he passed from light to shade.
He dreamed of being a handyman—a kind of “fix-it up chappy” in a small town.
He could build anything out of wood or metal; Fix a leaky faucet, repair a clogged drain, or replace a roof. One particular summer we worked together removing metal kitchen cabinets, replacing them with handcrafted cabinets designed, sketched, and built in the garage with the tools that were his pride.
He was the guy in school that took it seriously when they said, “Algebra will someday be your friend.” He was often heard, whistling a now forgotten tune as he figured out algebraic or maybe geometric equations on the back of a ready-for-the-garbage envelope.
Although he was self-conscious about reading and read slowly, in his domain—the garage—it was books that lined the shelves on the wall above his desk. Bell and Howell learn-at-home books, teaching the essence of TV and VCR repair—of which he was becoming an expert.
In tiny see-through plastic drawers, metal coffee cans, and baby food jars—the lids nailed to the bottom of a shelf—any kind of screw, nut, bolt, or thingamajig could be found. He knew right where to look if the job required an 8d-finishing nail.
Saturdays, and most Sundays–when there wasn’t a football game on–he could be found wandering the isles of the local Handyman Hardware and Lumberyard. His mind churning at the possibilities of it all.
For a living, he did nothing remarkable. He was a simple welder.
He spent his days or nights—depending on the shift—welding together jet engines parts for a now defunct airline. And was laid off after 15 years when the company merged and passed away.
Later, years after that cold morning in February, fragments of greatness were uncovered. And although he never really changed the world—except by being…
And he changed my world.