Photos by Jerry Robinson
I built a race car for for the grandkids. CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE

Jerry's View: Jerry, the builder

I was sitting on my enclosed patio last week, the warm sun teasing my aging body when it occurred to me that I’ve been very lucky. Lucky to be alive at 92 with no pain.

I use a walker to negotiate my way to the dinner table and a bathroom break or two but otherwise I have little to trouble me.

Except my hands...
I sometimes wonder if Harry “Kid” Matthews snuck into my room while I was asleep and laced up some 16 oz. gloves on me. My fingers feel like cold potato steak fries when I sit down to the computer. I try to type aNd iT cmes out lke ths. Sie wht Imean?

It’s not easy being 92 and trying to run the newspapers.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I have help but it does remind me of what I can’t do. I can’t drive any longer so I write my column from home most weeks. I can’t sell ads on the street due to my wobbly legs. I can’t run the presses because the foreman does not talk loud enough for me to hear the instructions. I stopped delivering the paper when someone stole my bike seat.

If I sound negative, I am. I resent not being able to do all the things I used to do.

Like when I could work in my own wood shop. I can no longer hammer a nail, twist a bolt or saw a board. I can’t see well enough to measure a line.

But there was a time when I could.

I’ve been forgiven for nailing the wall paneling up with a screwdriver stuck behind it, creating a rather pesky lump that I tried to hammer down with a rubber mallet. Only after I broke the skin of the paneling did I discover my mistake. Humbling but a good thing. I’d been looking for that screwdriver for weeks.

I’m a tinkerer and a dreamer. When the kids were little I was gone fishing so I never really built anything. Oh, I did build a doghouse and metal swing set (with instructions). I put up a picket fence and even made some beautiful open corner cabinets but forgot to give the base more weight than the top so they tipped over easily, often on Timbo’s head. I figured it would knock some sense into him.

Handyman is a moniker that never seemed to fit my persona but I tried. I’ve made birdhouses, scooters, garden carts, race cars and swing sets.

I had a hand in table hockey games played with a ping-pong ball and even built a ping-pong table. It warped. No one told me I needed to use kiln-dried wood. And I should have painted both sides.

My dad built a reputation as a reader of good books. My mom built a reputation as an ardent church-goer. I’ve built my reputation on dumb luck.

Even the scooters I made started out as something else. I had intended to make a new deck but cut the boards too short. I bought some ball bearing wheels and made the little scooters. The grandkids loved them. One child added a small motor and was seen racing down the sidewalk at break-neck speed. I shoulda added a seatbelt.

For the most part I was pretty successful in my shop. If I couldn’t figure it out I had my dear friend Dick Seibert (now departed) come over to clean up my failures. Dick was a true craftsman and must have been amazed at how I could stumble through my own shop without hurting myself.

Together we presented my family members with a variety of creative and useful gifts. Secretly, I learned years later, they marked many of them “Jerry Built.”

I never knew what that meant for the longest time and now I am proud to say it fits my persona. Come over sometime. I’ll show you my paneling.

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