by Philip Gulley
In the autumn of my grandfather’s ninety-second year, he moved to a retirement home. The decision to move had been a long time in the making. Grandma had died two years earlier. He was afraid that closing the door to their home one last time would make their goodbye permanent. Complicating the decision was their dog, Babe, who was going with him no matter what. Dispensing the family heirlooms was the final hurdle … the kitchen table he’d built from a wind-shook cherry tree in 1941, Grandma’s mahogany bed, and the woodworking tools.
Since childhood, I had shown a penchant for tools of all types. I spent a fair portion of my youth perched on Grandpa’s workshop stool, eyeing his implements and learning about their upkeep. “Delta-Milwaukee drill press, built in 1939,” he instructed. “Oil it once a month. Craftsman table saw. Don’t ever buy a new one; just buy another motor when the old one goes bad. These are carving knives. Keep them sharp. A dull knife is a dangerous knife.”
Then the most beautiful words of all to my young ears: “Someday these tools will be yours.”
I could scarcely wait for them to be mine, not thinking how receiving them would signal Grandpa’s final days. Whenever I visited him, I would finger the tools, imagining them in my workshop. But as I grew older and my affection for Grandpa increased, my yearning for his tools diminished. I began to realize they would be bought at a heavy price.
A week before he entered the retirement home, he invited me to his house. “Bring a truck,” he said. I arrived the next morning with my friend Jim. Grandpa hobbled out to his workshop, and I followed. Jim had the good sense to linger in the background. Grandpa unlatched the door and we made our way inside. “Someday these tools will be yours.” He rested his hand on the drill press. “This is a 1939 Delta-Milwaukee drill press,” he told me. “You’ll need to oil it once a month.” He worked his way through to the carving knives. “Remember to keep these sharp. A dull knife is a dangerous knife.” It was a sober morning.
“Someday these tools will be yours.”
My wife and I unloaded the tools that evening and carried them to my basement workshop. I arranged them just so while my little boy Spencer looked on from his perch on the workshop stool. “This was Grandpa’s drill press,” I told him. “Now it belongs to me. And these are carving knives. When you’re bigger I’ll show you how to use them.”
He looked up at me from the stool. “Can I have them?” “Yes, Spencer, someday a long time from now, when Daddy doesn’t need them anymore, these tools will be yours.”
He grinned a shy grin. Those were beautiful words to his young ears.
Forty-five years from now, I’ll totter out to my workshop with son in tow. It will be his Inheritance Day. I will have oiled the drill press once a month, just as Grandpa taught me to do. It will be one hundred years old and will work just fine. My son’s friend will linger in the background, while Spencer and I go over the tools’ upkeep one last time. “Don’t forget, son, a dull knife is a dangerous knife.”
I wonder if on that day my son will feel the melancholy I felt on my Inheritance Day. I wonder if he’ll lie awake on that distant night, wishing his daddy was still long for this world, as I wish that now of Grandpa.
Late at night, when my sons are asleep and my wife is reading in her chair, I go down to my workshop and think of grandpas and daddies and sons and the faithful rhythm of it all.
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for Christians everywhere, I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people. (Ephesians 1:15-18 NLT)