The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate. Bern Williams
My granddad was a tinkerer. He had every kind of plain and exotic tool and gadget you could imagine; he was in the industrial hardware business. In his basement sunroom was a fully equipped wordworking shop where we would silently spend time together in the sawdust filled air. This was a haven for me, the boy he called “Butch.”
“Peepin'” was my grandfather‘s parakeet (one in a long line of “Peepin’s” I came to find out). The current Peepin was a constant presence on his shoulder. The colorful, cocky critter was constantly mawking, squawking, and saying some word or other that seemed like an utterance from Delphi to me; I didn’t know birds could talk.
Among “Daddy Griffin’s” collection was a beautiful brass telescope, like one would see the Captain using from the deck of a British naval destroyer out searching for pirates 250 years ago. It was with this classic instrument I learned that out beyond what I could see in the night sky lay a whole cosmos of stuff, infinitely far.
Of course, once one’s mind is opened to new possibility, like a talking bird (which I thought must be smarter than me) and a device that could show me unseen worlds, another bolt of awareness struck me. It was in school that I first saw a microscope. The pieces fit together so perfectly in that instant: there is a device to show me infinitely far, and also, a device that could show me what was infinitely near.
Here I was, a southern boy, the connecting point, by my own observation, of that which was beyond the moon and that which had been hidden in pond algae for all these years. Infinitely near and infinitely far.
I look back on being Butch and loving my grandfather and his magic bird and I find such a richness of imagination that came from the richness of the physical environment at his house. Early life positive stimulation makes for more engaged children, more synapses form.
I read this week that newer generation human DNA markers are changing (mutating?) at a rate 100 times that of our grandfathers, as the rush of information and adaptation needs bombard the race. This might be so, and it holds great possibility, we hope, for the future. But, the closeness, the environment and the unconditional love I found with my grandfather and his tortoise-paced DNA powerfully informed the rest of my life, and I give him thanks.