The Last Thing He Told Me

3.9 Two Years and Four Months Ago

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“Show me how to do it,” he said.
We turned on the lights in my workshop. We had just left the theater, after
our non-date, and Owen asked if he could come back to the workshop with me.
No funny business, he said. He just wanted to learn how to use a lathe. He just
wanted to learn how I do what I do.
He looked around and rubbed his hands together. “So… where do we start?”
he said.
“Gotta pick a piece of wood,” I said. “It all starts with picking a good piece of
wood. If that’s no good, you have nowhere good to go.”
“How do you woodturners pick?” he said.
“We woodturners go about it in di􀏦erent ways,” I said. “My grandfather
worked with maple primarily. He loved the coloring, loved how the grains would
turn themselves out. But I use a variety of woods. Oak, pine, maple.”
“What’s your favorite kind of wood to work with?” he asked.
“I don’t play favorites,” I said.
“Oh, good to know.”
I shook my head, biting back a smile. “If you’re going to make fun of me…” I
said.He put his hands up in surrender. “I’m not making fun of you,” he said. “I’m
fascinated.”
“Okay, well then, without sounding corny, I think di􀏦erent pieces of wood
appeal to you for di􀏦erent reasons,” I said.
He moved over to my work area, bent down so he was eye to eye with my
largest lathe.
“Is that my 􀏯rst lesson?”
“No, the 􀏯rst lesson is that to pick an interesting piece of wood to work with,
you need to understand that good wood is de􀏯ned by one thing,” I said. “My
grandfather used to say that. And I think that is de􀏯nitely true.”
He rubbed his hand along the piece of the pine I was working with. It was a
distressed pine—dark in color, rich for a pine.
“What de􀏯nes this guy?” he said.
I placed my hand over a spot in the middle, blanched to almost a blond,
totally washed out.
“I think this part, right here, I think it could turn out interesting,” I said.
He put his hand there too, not touching my hand, not trying—only trying to
understand what I was showing him.
“I like that, I like that philosophy, is what I mean…” he says. “I kind of think
you could probably say the same thing about people. At the end of the day, one
thing de􀏯nes them.”
“What de􀏯nes you?” I said.
“What de􀏯nes you?” he said.
I smiled. “I asked you 􀏯rst.”
He smiled back at me. He smiled, that smile.
“Okay, 􀏯ne,” he said. Then he didn’t hesitate, not for a second. “There is
nothing I wouldn’t do for my daughter.”


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