Thursday, January 28, 2010

3 Generations In The Shop: A Handmade Family

I had planned to write about Milan today.  Sometimes life has other ideas.
Today my/our son  "A" came to work for Bob in the shop.  "A" told me he doesn't want me to talk or write about him.  Sorry "A", I can't help myself.   So "A" I won't use your real name, as I don't my own.  "A" and I still share a common bond of fleeing from a madman.  I don't want to compromise our safety.  We worked too hard to get here.

Bob is getting ready for the East Coast Custom Knife show the 3rd week in February.  So "A" worked on his day off to give Bob as much help as possible.  He also was going to take Mom for a ride in his new car.  We all worked in the shop, elbow to elbow, rear to rear.  We enjoyed our time together working with our hands in the shop.   Today "A" put his scraps of carbon fiber on my bench.  We all listened to last night's "Coast to Coast" that Bob "down cast" from the internet onto his iPhone.  At one point we all were standing at our individual machines when the interviewee said "Chicago has no problem with dead people."  We burst out laughing, and said at the same time: "vote early, and often" dead or alive.

Buddy keeps an eye on all of us.  He really
hates the noise of the shop.  But the dog's love for us keeps him there.  I am constantly brushing little steel curly ques out of his coat.  And checking paws for unwanted splinters.  Buddy is steadfast and true as a "good dog" should be.

At lunch time I asked "A" if he wanted anything special as I was going to the store.  He was at a breaking point in the action, and offered to drive me in his new car.   I got my list and bags and off we went.  He's a Subaru nut, and has another one.  This one is not a hatchback or wagon like before.  It's a sedan with power locks, sun roof, and a trunk.  Which he has a sub woofer in...and many more custom touches he so loves.  Besides much improved driving since the last time I was his passenger,  I was driving with a real young man.  When we got to the store, I asked if he'd like to split up and make it go faster.  He said: "no, I want to spend some time with you."  How sweet was that?   So we got all the items on the list together.  He's become quite the consumer, and showed me a few things.  It was a lovely outing.  Followed up by sandwiches he designed, that we all ate hardily. 

I have to interject something here.  When he was 5 the "professionals" in our school district told me he was "unteachable, untrainable, and should be placed in a residential setting for everyone's benefit."  My own family told me about the same.  It was a lonely place being the Mum (what "A" calls me) of the kid screaming in the store, school, church.  When he was in 3rd grade he asked me "why am I a boy nobody loves?"  But I knew if he could take apart the VCR at 5, that there was something there.  He used to call himself the "deengineer", because at 8 he could only take things apart.  He took apart many an item that he was not supposed to.  We would hide all the screwdrivers in the house from him.   A good friend at one point told me I had given up my life for his.  For  a  good many years that was true. I spent 12 years after his diagnosis trying to teach him everything socially I could think of.

I didn't do it because I am such a wonderful mother, or person.  It was selfish on my part.  I did what I had to do.  If "A" was to be independent some day, these lessons had to be taught.   He did the work.  And now he is independent.   This is where Bob comes into the story.   "A" was 14 when we met.  And a hormonal young teen.  Bob wasn't sure he could really love this woman, AND her kid.  Many others "A" and I had sent a running! ;o)   From the first day they met, Bob and "A" have had an understanding.   I am grateful he practiced on his two children first.  He was a seasoned parent, and has become a real father to a kid whose own father abandoned him.   Bob has loved "A" when he behaved horribly and needed it the most.   As parents we all know how hard that is to do.

Bob lays out trays of knives for the NY Show.

Last summer our 11 year old Grandson came from Denver and Bob had planned to help him make his first knife.  Lucas Burnley supplied a piece of steel for the event.  Bob planned step by step how he would teach him to make a fixed blade.  The night "E" arrived we gave him 2 Blade magazines, the bar of steel and a grease pencil...and sent him to bed. " Design a knife by morning" Bob told him.  It sounded a bit like a fairy tale where the hero must complete a task by sun up.  Bob had faith in "E." "E" had beaten us at enough adult card games for Bob to know the kid had the smarts to do so.  He emerged the next morning with a knife drawn on the steel and ready to go.  Below are a few pics of Bob and "E" making the first blade.  Heat treating was impressive.

The Final Piece

So 3 generations have worked in Bob's shop.  I see in "A" and in "E" a contentment when they are working with their hands.  Bob and I understand that all too well.   How fortunate they are to have someone to show them the way.  Neither Bob or I had that.   How great for Bob that he can impart his knowledge and years of experience with these two young men.  I believe that Bob and I have shown them that a person can make a living with their hands.

My Grandson also profiled a flock of my personalized birds in silver and copper.  I taught him how to use the grinding wheels to shape and smooth the edges.  I would look over and see him with his iPod in his ears, and grinding away.  He was a great employee during his visit.  He said "I could do this forever!"  Me too kiddo! :-) 

Thanks for reading.  I am still amazed that you do.


I am adding a few notes since I wrote this.  I will post again about Autism on Monday the 8th.

First, thank you for your kind words.  They mean a lot.

Second: the report about vaccines and autism has been withdrawn.  I never felt that autism was caused by vaccines, or wheat, or any of the "causes du jour" parents of autistic kids are faced with.  I believe it is an evolutionary development in the human race.  Who are our technology whizzes?  Yep, the "A" community.  More Monday.

Three: Saturday night on HBO is the "Temple Grandin" movie.  I will be plunked in front of the TV to see how Hollywood handles autism.  It's been a long time since "Rainman." 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pronto Soccoro 2 -Emergency!

We found ourselves in a sea of Italians all waiting to be seen in the Rome emergency room.  It looked almost like an American emergency room.  Except for one  Every woman under 40 was wearing kick ass leather boots...I tell you the truth!  It's boot season in Italy in November, and Italian women were rocking their beautiful boots.  (Back to Bob's foot)
We did not see a triage nurse. So we stood in a hallway for a few minutes.  I saw 3 doctors having a conference in the corner.  So I boldly walked up to them and interrupted: "Excusi, ...."  One took me by the arm and we walked down a hall where he opened a door.  There sat a triage nurse with a patient.  The Doctor said something and the Nurse looked me up and down.

"Oh! It's not me, it's my husband." I said in English... and I went to get Bob, thanking the Doctor for his time.
"Prego" he said, as all Italians say.  For an American saying the name of a canned spaghetti sauce for "you're welcome" always sounds strange.  Don't you think?  And who named the sauce "you're welcome?"  When I see it on the  shelves at the grocery store, I shake my head.

Bob saw the triage nurse and she sent us to a waiting area.  We were waiting in the "orthopedic department."  A better name would be " Department of people who fall down on the streets in Roma."
All the people in this waiting room had fallen down.  Patients holding arms, knees, with shoes off and swelling ankles sat waiting.  This was Bob's first experience with national health care.   He was leery at best.

In "pronto soccoro" everyone waits together.  Patients on gurneys, in wheel chairs, and their family members are all in the same waiting room.  In America, you get a bed, and a curtain.  Not here, everyone was all together.  Two rows of chairs facing each other. When we first sat down there were about 20 people, and a few empty chairs.  A young man lay at the end on a gurney.  The gorgeous woman he was with was on her cell phone.  She too had 3 inch heeled boots on, a brown tweed mini skirt and brown tights.  She paced up an down the hall in front of us.  Her boots clicked on the linoleum floor as she paced.  Every head followed her in unison--back and forth as she walked and all of our heads turned back and forth too.  Her man on the gurney had been in a motorcycle accident, and was waiting to see if his back was broken.  That much I understood.  He lay there awake, motionless.

"Roberto Terzuola!" a head said that popped out of a door.  Bob went in the door and I sat and watched the "show."  The room began to fill up with people.  They were not patients.  They were family and loved ones who had come to "the person who fell down in Rome department" to be with the patients.  It occurred to me that this area was way too small if every patient had family and friends show up.  The difference in this hospital waiting room from an American one was patience. No, I don't mean patients.  These people are used to waiting in line for health care.  In America, people would be checking their watches and phones for the time, foot tapping and sighing.  These Italians sat  like docile sheep comforted by family or friends.  Some people there had 6-8 people by their side.  For a moment I felt kind of lonely with me all by myself.

Bob was pleasantly surprised with his National Health Care.  In the room was an orthopedic surgeon, nurse, and an entire radiology suite.  They xrayed his foot several ways.  We waited for the results. The young man on the gurney and his heel clicking babe went in next.  When they emerged they were both talking, their speech lifted.  I was assuming that his back was not broken.  She dialed her phone and started pacing in front of the sheep whose heads turned right and left following her every step.

A man brought a sack of sandwiches in and gave them to his people.  They opened the wrappers, lifted the bread inspecting their meal, and discussed the sandwiches.   All the other Italians giving him the evil eye as they sat and watched him eat.  They continued discussing the food as they ate it.  How much can one say about a sandwich? Ask an Italian. 

Soon a woman in her 60's, just under 5 feet tall, hair pulled tightly in a knot on the back of her head, wearing all black arrived. The heel clicking babe closed her phone upon seeing "The Nona." (Grandma in Italian)  The Nona kissed the man on the gurney, and they all spoke very fast.  Then The Nona went to the end of the gurney, lifted up the sheet and began to squeeze the young man's toes!
"Ma, I just saw the doctor, you don't need to examine me" he said.
"I knew you first!" The Nona replied, and continued squeezing and pulling his toes.
"Ma, you're hurting me! Stop!" he said
"I'm making sure." she said sounding mildly annoyed and continued to squeeze his shin, and moved up to his knee.
"Ma, please!" he was whining.
It was all I could do to not burst out laughing.  I felt like I was in a Monty Python sketch: "The Ministry For Those Who Fall Down in Rome."  Or a SNL bit.  So the waiting proved to be more entertaining than even I could have foreseen.  

They called Bob back in. Told him he just had a purple foot, and that he had no broken bones.  I thought of The Nona, and how she would examine Bob's foot.  It made me smile.  The other thing that made me smile was not being asked for a payment.  So thank you Italy for paying for our Pronto Soccoro visit.  It's the least you can do for American tourists on your treacherous streets and walkways.  Of course the nearest cab stand was 5 long blocks from the hospital.  So the "purple foot" and I very carefully walked to the cab stand.

That was Thanksgiving Day.  That night we had the most delicious thin crust pizzas.

My other favorite dish in Rome is "artichokes judaicca." I put a pic of them below.  They are deep fried, and the petals are crispy like a potato chip and the inside soft unlike the steamed ones we are used to.  When they come out of the kitchen they look like sunflowers on the plate.  A little salt, red wine, and mmmmmmm, my mouth is watering writing about them.

I sent this photo to family and friends Thanksgiving evening.
I think I may have posted it to FB.  The next morning we would take the train to Milano. 

In Milano would be many of our knife friends from all over the world.  And our new Italian friends, Libe and Fausto.   This is such a fun show to go to.  Time flies when we are there.  My limited Italian was getting better.  But I discovered a translation app on my iPhone that improved my vocabulary instantly.  As Bob had been the translator, I now had my phone.   Bob grew up hearing Italian. Then lived in Spanish speaking countries for over 20 years.   Some times when he is talking to the Italians, he runs the two languages together.  Easy to do, as so many words are similar.  But I could always tell by the persons facial expression when he was doing it.  I lovingly call it "Spatalian."

I will write about Milano next.
Thanks for reading, I am still amazed you do.