January 07, 2024

Cutting The Cord

Cutting The Cord 
By John R. Greenwood 

Dad, I apologize, but I had to do it; it was time. I sure hope you’re looking down right now and nodding your head in agreement. I finally retired your favorite heavy-duty lead cord that you used for work. My first recollection of it as a kid was seeing it coiled up and lying on top of your toolbox in the back of our old International Scout. That yellow lead logged many miles and showed up ready for work at hundreds of job sites all over the Capital District and beyond. I’ll bet it even rode with you to the top of Gore Mountain when installing those giant windows in the ski lodge. That lead and your electric drill helped put food on the table and a roof over our heads long before battery-powered tools were invented. 

I remember the day you passed it on to me. We cleaned out your workshop just before you and Mom moved into the senior apartments. While mom was whittling down her collection of Farberware, you were thinning down your lifetime collection of hand tools and hardware. I went on to use that lead for years. One day, I decided to add a four-foot fluorescent shop light above a dark corner in the basement. The only outlet was several feet away, so I enlisted your fifty-foot lead as a temporary fix, hung it on the floor joists, and then wrapped the excess around a couple of 16-penny nails. That part-time assignment lasted twenty years until the other day when I finally installed a junction box and ran fifteen feet of wire to a new LED shop light. 

Your old work partner was tired and brittle. He served us both well. I never took that fifty feet of yellow for granted. Whenever I looked at that thing hanging there, I thought of the care you took with your tools. That lead represented your thirty years as a union glazier split between Arrow Glass in Schenectady and Spa Glass in Saratoga Springs. How proud you were that in all those years working with storefront-size glass, no one working with you was ever hurt. With that thought in mind, I knew the right thing to do was retire that old lead before something terrible happened. 

I pulled the lead from the scrap bin the next day and cut off the two ends. I plugged them together and stapled them to a post in my workshop. They are a constant reminder of your work ethic and the pride you put into every job you ever did. Your calloused and scarred hands were a testament to the wear and tear it takes to make a blue-collar living. I’m forever grateful that you passed those traits on to me. I do my best anyway. 

Dad, I’ll end this piece with something that makes me smile and think of you several times a week. Whenever you and I were doing something together, and a jackknife was the tool of choice, you would look at me with that raised eyebrow, tilted head look a father gives his son when he’s sure he already knows the answer. 

“Do you have a jackknife on you?” 

“Is it sharp?” 

The answer was seldom yes and yes. 

I sure do miss those days…