Sunday, April 21, 2013

guest blog: Pop B's pencils

a note from writemuch: my nephew John Jenkins wrote a post for this blog last summer, on the occasion of my parents' 60th anniversary. While Daddy was sick, John came to visit and stopped by the Scotland Neck house on his way to the hospital. Here, are the lessons he found in that short visit.

Pop B's Pencils

by John Jenkins

I stopped by Scotland Neck before the last time I saw Pop B at the hospital. It was just me, my mom, sister, niece and aunt writemuch. Sometime during lunch, I decided to walk around the house I've explored thousands of times since I was born. I am not sure why I decided to do this, but it sure helped. 
I discovered something pretty funny. At least I thought it was funny. Right on top of Pop B's keyboard was a tiny pad of paper, and a pencil. On top of that pencil, like most pencils, was an eraser. Pink as a newborn, and so obviously unused, the eraser sat on top of the white pencil and looked more like a decoration than anything. That struck me as humorous at the time, but did not seem like an observation worth sharing. But then in every room I knew Pop B spent time in, I kept seeing these pencils. Perfect looking pencils. They weren't the pencils I used throughout school, eraser worn at the top or sometimes even nonexistent. His pencils almost looked elegant in an odd way. 

But now as I look back at that short visit to my grandfather's house, I think my pencil and eraser observation reflects Pop B more than anything else I could think of. He was so cautiously perfect in ever single way throughout his life. After 84 years, he had to know that he was never going to make a mistake drastic enough to use the other side of that pencil. But there the eraser sat—just in case. Pens— now those are for the reckless and mistake-prone people like myself. That's why my papers have always looked like a crazy, mistake-ridden mess.  Marked up, crossed out and confused. Pop B wasn't any of those things. Ever. The notes he took on the songs he was learning on that keyboard weren't like that, his conversations weren't like that, his life wasn't like that. And that's rare. His notes were as eloquent as he was. Pop B was well spoken, easy to follow, helpful. He had no need for any of that flashy stuff. He didn't need to impress anyone with his presentation because his delivery, his accomplishments, his whole life really, spoke for itself. Navy veteran, beloved doctor, even more beloved father, grandpa and great-grandpa. 

Another thing I noticed during that exploration of his home was his pictures. Of course he was in some, always seemingly nodding in approval of everything going on around him and everything he helped build. But what was on display most was his beautiful and headstrong wife, his uniquely gifted children, and his whole mess of grandchildren. This set up was also how Pop B seemed to live his life. Not once was it ever about him. Whether it was spreading health among Scotland Neck or spreading his Atticus Finch like knowledge to us grandkids, it was never about him. It was how what he learned and what he knew could help us every day. 

And that brings us back to the pencils Pop B has left behind at the house. I know I won't be needing one, because Pop B's influence is certainly never going to be erased.

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.