Simon Kolz

A weblog by Simon Kolz

Grandpa's Knife

From the book Spider’s Big Catch

Sometimes, when I’m stressed or feel the need to refocus, I find myself thinking about my grandpa’s knife. There are people in the world who drink or take pills in an attempt to manage stress, and some folks handle their rosary beads.

My grandpa whittled.

My brothers and I could always tell when there was something weighing on Grandpa’s mind. He’d pick up several short sticks, sit on the porch swing, and begin to whittle. We could judge the size of the problem he was grappling with by the size of the pile of shavings at the old man’s feet.

As far as I knew, he never whittled anything useful. That was never his purpose. He just took any old stick and began whittling it into a point. Then he’d keep whittling until the stick was too short for him to hold, set it down, and start on another one. I marveled at his ability to focus so intensely, just sitting there, gently rocking the porch swing, quietly whittling a problem down to size. Then, as if being guided by some inner signal known only to him, we’d see Grandpa suddenly stand up, and we knew he’d reached a decision. He’d pick up a small whisk broom that always stood beside the swing, clean up the shavings, and walk away in silence.

There were also times when Grandpa’s knife helped teach us other lessons

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