Have A Chat With Erling

Kerri with her dad.

Kerri with her dad.

It seems as if the theme for the week is lost conversations. It occurred to me that, after writing yesterday’s post, there is, in my life, another conversation that I wish I could have but never will. And, because I never will have the actual conversation, I am reaching into the void and having another form of dialogue.

I wear on my right wrist, wrapped three times to form a bracelet, a pull chain for a light fixture that I found on a workbench. Kerri wears on her left wrist, wrapped three times, the rest of the chain. I found the chain during our first trip to Florida. We were visiting Kerri’s mom in an assisted living facility and, in the evenings, cleaning out her parent’s home. Kerri’s dad, Erling Arnson, died a year before we met, and she’s often said to me, “I wish you could have known my dad.”

I found the chain on Erling’s workbench. He was a watchmaker and a jeweler. He worked with his hands, rebuilt cars, machined new parts for things, and was the master of a quick fix. He liked to build things. He liked to tinker. You can tell much about a person by the way they keep their space and I spent a long time standing at Erling’s workbench. It had been mostly picked apart, scavenged, but the organizing principle was still in tact. He liked to re-purpose things. He liked to make things out of things; every bolt and scrap was filled with potential. I could feel (and understand) the simple joy of creation apparent at his bench.

When I saw the chain (discarded by the scavengers) I knew it would be a way for Kerri and I to bring her dad forward with us. We secured the chains on our wrists and because it is there, I think about Erling everyday. I wonder what I might have learned from him. I like to tinker, too. I like to make things.

Me at Erling's resting place.

Me at Erling’s resting place.

On the second anniversary of his death, Kerri said, “Daddy will show up, today. I don’t know how, but he will.” A few minutes later the faucet in the kitchen broke. Evidently Erling had a wicked sense of humor. As I replaced the faucet (the first faucet replacement of my life), a lengthy affair requiring a call to the neighbor for tools, I felt a deep sense of patience. I remember my grandfather telling me that a person can figure anything out if they just take the time to do it. “You don’t need to know how, you just need to give yourself the time to figure it out.”

Kerri was on the phone with her mom when I finished the job. I was feigning machismo, peacocking my plumbing prowess. Kerri’s mom said, “I think he passed Erling’s test.” She smiled and I thought, “Thanks for the help, Erling. Now, how do I fix the plaster on the ceiling?” His response: I don’t know. But, let’s figure it out.

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