Saga of Chucky Bob

My truck is named Chucky Bob. Actually, William Robert, but I call him Chucky Bob. This week he took us to Lava Hot Spring for a break. We lounged, read and soaked up mineral water for two days in a nice little old Idaho town. Unfortunately, someone made a poor U-turn and smote poor Chucky Bob upon. The fender.

Did you know that for only $70 you can order a fender on line and the shipping was free? In a few days I will be able to learn a new skill. I am looking forward to restoring my truck. If this goes well I can look into pulling the bed and fixing the ding from where Hattie backed into on a dark night at Wallmart years ago.

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The Ragged Edge of Grief

Grief is exquisitely personal. This makes sense – our loss over someone will be as personal as our relationship with them. Mourning a death is easy.  It is an event. You get a certificate. You have a funeral. You bury someone, or cremate them. The hard part is mourning a person. One reason I think we have the event is to make the loss easier to deal with. A formal time to grieve and express yourself is healthy. It can also be inadequate. I am not trying to put down a thesis on grief. I am just trying to understand how it affects myself. My experience will not be yours, and I hope yours passes well and teaches you all you need.

My grief started well before the death of my son. I’ve lost grandparents, parents, and a sister. But losing a son was very different. My first brush with this death was nearly eight years before he was born. My mother was dying from cancer. I was newly wed and we drove to her home in Orem for an overnight visit.

The next morning I was in the kitchen when my mother got up. Over breakfast, she told me of her dream. In it my wife, Naomi, and I had a child with Down Syndrome and heart defects. She also said he had many other problems, both at school and home. It was really hard on us, and then he died.

I told her that her friend, Andrea, had just had a baby boy with the same issues and she was reflecting that on us. It was a logical explanation, but it didn’t feel that way. I felt this was something else. I come from a religious home. This isn’t the first time I’d seen a forewarning or dream that was more than a dream. God opened a window, and I slammed it shut.

Eight years later Andrew was born. He had Down Syndrome, multiple heart problems; he needed surgeries and oxygen. He also had Autism and behavioral issues. He was not an easy child, but he was a delightful one.

I can still hear his husky little laugh in my mind, and often cry when I do. Two years after his death, I hurt in some ways more than I did when he died from pneumonia. The permanence of death took time to build up.

Today I deal with this loss in many ways. My wife and I often reminisce over his life. It is surprising how many stories we have forgotten. We don’t want to dwell on him, but we also want to rejoice in his life with us. Yes, we know he is in a better place, but that does not always help. Our grief is ours, and comes and goes in odd ways. His sister also has an undue burden here. She was older and was kind of a co-mother. She often cared for him. She left for school, then a mission, then more school, and marriage. She really never lived with us after high school. It would be easy to see his loss as just another event in her life. But she loved him deeply and his loss hit her deeply, too.

For me, it took eight months to break. My wife was about to leave for four days at BYU’s Education Week. With Andrew, we had started vacationing separately. Anyone with an autistic child knows they don’t always travel well. For us to enjoy an event like this, we would need a sitter at home with him. I would take time off work and watch him while Naomi recharged. This next trip was planned before he died. I found myself facing a week alone, without him or my wife, and I broke – and broke badly. She changed some plans and we went together.

This is just one way we cope with this loss. Holidays can be hard. Sunday church meetings are difficult. Andrew loved going to church. I knew he was really sick and weak, yet he wanted to go to church the Sunday before he died. The next night we took him to an ER. It was his third hospitalization in six months, and his last. He passed away that Friday.

How do you heal a wound like this? I studied grief and all of its phases. I never really had the denial part, or the bargaining. In fact, I think the whole idea of categorizing grief is ludicrous. It would be like trying to force a special needs child to comply with the standard exams designed for “normal” children. Oh, we do this too. Learning about grief did not help. Counseling helped some, but not as much as I’d hoped. The best help for me has been to spend time with my wife and listen to her thoughts on our lives together. I’d like to do more of this with others, especially with my daughter, but in her life with work and a four-year-old, you don’t just pop in and open up a can of pain.

Right now, I don’t have an answer. I do realize I need to be happier. This needs to be a conscious effort. I cannot wait for it to just come. I need to decide who I am and force march myself there. Nothing is ever easy. Andrew wasn’t easy. I never spent much time worrying about that at the time. We learned to laugh at things, cheer up, and move on. That is my advice to myself now. I just can’t seem to take it.

Stumbling in Pain

How many of you have participated in an egg and spoon race? What fun! A spoon, an egg – what can go wrong? Humiliations galore, that’s what can go wrong.

Work had a fun take on this game: use a disposible spoon, hold it in your teeth, and use a cotton ball instead of an egg. I was racing two women, both half my weight, but by licking the spoon, the cotton ball will stick. Now it is an egg sprint. Of course, I am not a cheater. I showed them the trick. I won the first race, but we were all so fast Cindy, our timer, didn’t get the stopwatch going. So we raced again. A step or two shy of the finish, my calf muscle tore. It was not pretty. A stumble to the finish, some groans, and a long, painful limp back to my desk. I left work a little early and got it checked out.

I have four to six weeks of healing while the muscles knit back together. Today, four days later, is the first day I haven’t taken a pain pill to get through. Ibuprofen is my best friend right now, though. My right leg has the nickname “Mr. Puffy” and on our recent trip to Walmart, I used the “Jazzy Chair” motorized shopping cart. If you see me on “People of Walmart,” cut me some slack.

Rejoice

My son, now is a time to rejoice!

Sing, shout hosanna, laugh, play, dance, even if badly.

Thou art blessed, acknowledge those blessings and rejoice in them.

Take time today to rejoice, dread naught tomorrow, let it take care of itself.

The greatest blessings of thy life came unplanned –

Thou art in my hands and I love thee.

Work hard and then leave work at work.

As thou drivest home, think of whom thou canst serve.

I will guide thee.

Lose thyself in service and find joy here and forever.

So What is a Sex Bolt and Do You Need One?

I am designing a toy box for my grandson. This sounds easy, but not so when you are a complex man like myself. Instead of building said box out of plywood and painting it, I want beautiful wood. Now, I could head out and buy some maple – hard and nice. I could use cedar – soft, but beautiful, bugproof, and it has that wonderful, woody smell. If this box is repurposed as a blanket box, or if he gave it as a hope chest to his future bride, that would be great. But no, I thought “Recycled pallet boards. That will be cool.”

And cool it will be, if I ever get it done. First problem is the very nature of the nails in pallets. They have a twist in them to prevent them from ever coming out.  This really works! So far, I have broken down three or four pallets, and I have very few boards. I have lots of splinters that once were boards. After failing to pry boards free, I went for sawing through the nails. This is much easier, but as the ends are mostly split anyway, I will be using a circular saw to cut the ends off and will live with shorter boards.

My second problem has to do with the nature of pallets. Made from very hard wood and heavily used. These pallets were free, and as such, they are broken or split in many places. I don’t know if I will have enough wood for this project once I break down my ten or so pallets.

A third problem, it is not enough for me to just make a wood box. I want this to be like an old treasure chest. I am welding up angle iron around the entire thing. Yep, an iron bound treasure chest for toys.  I went out and bought steel. Now, this angle iron is really quite thick – perhaps too thick. It is the kind of thing I would use for building a welding table. Oh, that was the last project. Also, this box will be 33 x 20 x 20 inches or so. This is so we can have the Golden Ratio between the sides. Of course, I can also do 33 x 20 x 12.5, which gives me the Golden Ratio again, and I would write another blog on the beauty of the Golden Ratio, but I won’t. What I need are precise cuts and clean welds. Not something I get with the cheap Harbor Freight tools and my skills.  Now you can see that this requires some cool cuts. If I cut both sides of the angle iron on a 45 degree angle, three of those will make a corner. Very cool, if symmetry is your thing.

If you don’t understand how this works, look at the next photo, you can see how nice this will look once they are covering the edges. 

Now you can see one of the many problems. I miss-cut this corner. I will need to fill the gap in with weld, and I want that weld to be smooth and properly layered, not all splatters and holes like I usually get. Now, this sample picture is based on the only two pieces I have cut. I am going to have to carefully cut this steel as it is the foundation. “Careful” is not a word I am terribly familiar with when it comes to cutting steel and welding. One big project was my grape arbor. It is about 10 x 11 feet and has 6 steel runners for the grapes. I had to cut each one to fit as I did not make the frame really square.

I was planning to use rivets to attach the wood to the steel. I wanted to “pan hammer” them. I tried, today, with a test piece of steel and wood. For a rivet, I used a 16 penny sinker nail. As you can see, it doesn’t look very good. It did hold, but just does not look the way I want it too. If I am spending all this time doing research, breaking up pallets and learning to weld, I want it to really look good!  

So this is where a sex bolt comes in. A sex bolt is a threaded screw with a tapped sleeve on. Look how nice this will be:

I can just drill holes and put in the sex bolts to hold the wood to the steel and – voila! We have a cool looking, not riveted connection. Now I did look into a riveter, but the rivets were surprisingly hard to find that had the look I wanted, so I decided to go this way.

Now comes the last part. Pallet boards vary greatly in thickness. For example, a small piece varies from 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch. Since my sex bolts (often called sex screws, but you don’t want to put that into your browser …) have to be close to the right size, I am buying three sets of 100 in 12, 15 and 18 mm, all shipped from Ali Express for only $46.17. Now you can see below that the pallet wood has lots of character and holes. I would have spent less on new wood.

Yep, for the price of the sex bolts, I could have bought my grandson a toy box. By the time I am done, this gift will cost $200 and will take five years.

Firelight

A fire in a box warms us through a cold winter night

Quiet flames lick the logs and fill the room with a soft orange glow

A nice break from a troubled day of work, numbers and computers

Yet here I sit, phone in hand, writing on a blog