By Jack Zimmerman
Illustrated by Thomas Buchanan
My grandpa has always loved to build and is a very handy man. He retired from his job as an electrician a few years ago. He has really big muscles and really big hands, so he can always lift something heavy. However, he still loves to build and continues to do it, but now only with those he loves. He has built a garage, a barn, and a trellis, and when I’m around I work with him.
I always thought to myself that one day I would build a project with him and I would show him how much fun I have doing them. The problem is he lives in California and I’m in New York, so I’m not around that much. My grandpa is always calling, saying how he is in the middle of a project that he is doing with my cousin Logan, who lives very close to him. I’m always jealous when I hear that and want to go over there and help. I didn’t think he knew how much I loved to build and I didn’t think he cared.
One time I was in the middle of doing my homework in third grade and my grandpa called.
“Hi son,” he said in his deep voice.
“Hi Grandpa,” I said in reply.
“Guess what!” he said in excitement.
“What?” I said, excited to know.
“Logan and I are building a barn. It’s so exciting,” he said.
Everything went silent. I slowly turned to look out the window. I was so upset and disappointed, but all I said was, “Cool. It must be a lot of fun.” Then I said goodbye and hung up.
I tried not to think about it and tried to finish my homework as the light in my room slowly started to dim as the sun went down. I did finish my homework, but the whole time I was thinking about our conversation. I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t know what to do. The thing is, there was nothing I could do about it. My grandpa is so great and does everything I like to do, and for that reason I love him so much.
All I needed was just one project. Building is just very fun for me.
The summer after third grade I went back out to California. Grandpa and I were on our way to the store to get some supplies. We were going to build a chicken coop. We went through the store getting one thing after another. I didn’t do much because he was better when it came to getting supplies and he was also paying, so I let him do what he had to do. When we got back we started planning and putting the first steps together.
“Do you want to put the first few boards together or do you want to read the blueprint we just made?” I said.
“How about this? I will start to put the coop together as you read me the blueprint. You watch what I’m doing and when you think you can do it you tell me and we will switch,” Grandpa said.
“Sounds good,” I said.
We started to work on the coop and not long after I understood what he was doing and we switched. I started doing it myself until I made a mistake.
“Wait a sec, son. That’s not how you do it. You have to hold the hammer like this and hit it on the nail like this.”
“Oh, I get it now, Grandpa. Sorry.”
“There is no need for a sorry, son. Mistakes are the only way to learn and the world would be so boring if there was no such thing as mistakes.”
Each time I would make a mistake he would correct me and teach me how to do it right. That was what I loved most about him during that project. At the end of the day I couldn’t believe how much I had learned in just a few hours.
I soon started to think that this project was more of a learning experience than just to build a coop with Grandpa. I felt like his goal was not by the end of the day to have a chicken coop, but to teach me the skill of building and to make sure I was having a fun day.
A few hours later we were done building the chicken coop. I went and got a bucket to sit on next to Grandpa.
The coop looked so shiny, like a brand new car. I could still smell the fresh paint emanating from the coop. The windows were so clean and the roof was on the most perfect slant I have ever seen. The bedding of hay for the chickens smelled like it was just cut a second ago.
Grandpa and I had built the coop together. We just sat there looking at our final piece of art and didn’t say much. One thing was for sure though, I was thinking how great this project was to me and it reminded me how much I love my grandpa and how much I need him, even though I don’t get to see him often. He doesn’t realize it and I didn’t until now how much I have actually learned from him from just one simple project. I love him.
We sat there looking at the coop, just him and me. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had just built a chicken coop with my grandpa. One of my goals was done. Now, there I was looking at something I had finally got to do with my grandpa. I was so happy.
“Thank you, son,” he said to me.
“Thank me for what? You’re the one who has been teaching me. So thank you so much for everything.”
“Thank you as well. You have also taught me something and…”
“What in the world could I have taught you?” I said, cutting him off. “You were the one teaching me this whole time. I never taught you anything.”
“Well, son, what I was trying to say was that you have taught me that it is a lot more fun to do something with someone than by yourself. And it’s especially fun when it’s with your grandson.”
“Oh, Grandpa. I love you so much,” I said as I hugged him.
And for the rest of the time until my grandma screamed, “Dinner!” we looked at the chicken coop together as the sun set behind us.