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Thanks, Pa

August 5, 2005

In response to an earlier post of mine, I received a very nice email from my Pa, writing about his Pa, the Alan Hindmarch after which we both are named, to one extent or another. I never knew either of my grandfathers (though I’m named after both of them, even when my mother says I’m not), but I seem to mystically take after them both, so I always find it interesting to get these glimpses at them.

It’s worth noting that though I cited “stale cigar smoke” in that previous email, I could just as easily have said “fresh pipe smoke,” which some days is floating around my apartment. I bought a nice little comma-shaped pipe in Shrewsbury, on my honeymoon, but that’s not something I thought I’d share with my folks while my mom’s going through chemo for lung cancer. You know how it is.

Anyway:

I spent the first 30 years of life watching your grandfather, pipe clamped firmly in his jaw, in his room for 18 hours a day – or more. Sometimes he seemed to totally engrossed in a specific task for a paying client while at other times he, to my untrained eye, seemed to be idling. He would play solitare on his drawing board across his lap or sketch little pictures of small, sometimes unrelated things – ears, noses, trees, Trinka or us kids. He would clean pen points, hand-sharpen pencil points to a specific, precise edge. All the while listening to his Telefunken radio with Studs Terkel, classical music or even the occasional ball game [on].

Sometimes his face would look especially old and pale. He seemed worried, tired, stressed. Other times he seemed to almost giggle while drawing a particular image or set of images and he looked like the happiest man on earth. During all of these times he was, above all things, happy with his choice for his life. He never actually “worked” in my layman’s sense, but he struggled, cursed, laughed and loved each moment. His work break was to do more of the same. Yet, he told me that he was still trying to find that “look”, that style that he could see in his mind, but couldn’t seem to be able to put down on paper. It was never right for him while to my eye it was pretty damned good. For him, it was never good enough, but I think his joy in life really lay in the process. The struggle was the thing that gave him not only his frustration, but his thrill. I think he would have withered if he ever felt he had been “good enough.”

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