Five Talismans: #2 The Lapel Pin
It’s tiny, barely a quarter of an inch at its widest point. The edges are worn smooth by the years of use. It was old when it came to me from my uncle. And it was old when he got it from his father, my grandfather.
The detail on the pin’s post is unfamiliar to those of us used to modern style compression clasps on the back of pins. Instead it has a threaded disk that secures it to my coat. The face is made of gold. The lettering has started to fade, but the distinctive square and compasses still surround the bright G in the middle. So much detail to squeeze into such a small token. It sits on the lapel of the suit I wear each Sunday and every time I go to court.
I never knew my grandfather was a Mason. In fact, when he passed away while I was in college, I didn’t even really know what Masonry was. Despite the fact that it is one of the oldest organizations in existence today, many people still find it mysterious and shrouded in secrecy. Wearing the Masonic symbol, either in a piece of jewelry or even as a sticker on your car, symbolizes that the wearer is a Master Mason. And that says something, or at least it should say something about the man who is wearing it.
My grandfather was born in a log cabin in rural Idaho in 1913. During his life he was a dam builder. He moved his family all over the Western United States building some of the largest dams in the world. His job was to fix the equipment. I felt privileged that I got to know him.
My father passed away about seven years ago. Most of my children never got a chance to know him. My father-in-law passed away even earlier. It’s been 20 years. Only my oldest child has any memory of him. I think children miss out when they don’t get to know their grandparents.
The summer I was 16 years old, I travelled from our home in Olympia, in the Western part of Washington State, to a tiny town called Tekoa, Washington just a few miles from the Idaho border on the extreme Eastern side of the state. I went to spend the summer with my grandfather and work on a farm. It wasn’t his farm. It belonged to a friend of his and Papa and I were going to be summer help.
It was a magical time, at least in my memory. I spent my days outside driving trucks, and clearing brush, and driving his old Mazda station wagon way too fast across the Washington/Idaho line on my way to work. (Tops out at about 95 MPH.)
Papa didn’t cook. We’d come home from work, clean up and “go to town” to eat in the tiny town’s only cafe. Town was a single street that you could walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. Tekoa had a stated population of 550 people. My grandfather had lived there for decades. Everyone knew Julius. And from what I could see, they all respected him. I knew that whatever I did would eventually get back to him. But, honestly, when you are working on a farm, there isn’t much time to get into any real trouble.
I got strong. I got a tan. (From the neck up and the shirtsleeves down.) And I got to spend my days with one of my favorite people.
That summer was the last time I saw my grandfather. I went home in the fall. I finished high school a couple years later before going on a two year mission for the Mormon church. Then, it was college at BYU in Utah.
In the meantime, he got old. He had a stroke that robbed him of his strength and movement. I missed his funeral. I was at school and didn’t know. Nearly a year later I was talking to my mother.
How ya’ doing, Mom?
Well, when my dad died, I was kind of a mess for several months. But, I’m better now.
Ah. . .my grandfather passed away?
In the days before Facebook, sometimes family news got missed in the grief after a death, even one not completely unexpected. In a way, I’m glad that I didn’t see him that one final time. He was always bigger than life to me. A mountain of a man with a gravely voice who helped helped a young man make that transition to manhood all those years ago. That’s how I remember him. His tombstone is a plain slab of white marble. It has his name, the years he was born and died and the Masonic symbol. The same symbol that can still be seen on a tiny pin that I wear in my lapel every Sunday.
This is the second in a five part series called The Five Talismans And What They Mean to Me.
The other parts are coming later this week.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved