Family life · True North

Surprise: It’s a Standing Daddy!


No, this is not our New Year’s miracle– Geoff cannot walk again.  But what it is really is quite cool.  This is a standing bar, bequeathed to me, well, Geoff actually,  by my Uncle Gordon, who passed away almost two years ago this March.  I reference a character like Gordon in True North– to be honest, his character name is, in fact, Gordon.  He was paralyzed when I was a child, the result of a motorcycle ride gone bad.  But he became a woodworker and built this incredible standing bar in his home, which allowed him to stand and serve drinks or dish completely inappropriate jokes at the same time.  I was terrified of Gordon as a kid, but as a young adult and adult, I grew to find him endearing.   He left me three things after his passing: his ashes, which rest on atop shelf in our living room; a box of audio cassettes telling his life story, which I really will write one day- it’s just that he tells some wild and crazy and often illegal anecdotes– maybe now that he is gone I can actually listen to and not feel like the police are going to bust into my living room; and, lastly, this standing bar.

For the year and a half, the standing bar has been a laying down bar in about 30 different pieces on my in- laws’ basement floor.  Thank you, Phil and Joyce, for always letting us keep the weirdest adaptive equipment there when it doesn’t fit in our tiny condo…we really do need a garage.  But anyway, putting the bar together required the perfect storm.  It needed me to put the plan in place and invite people to dinner at the Krill’s home in Franconia.  Mother Nature cooperated and didn’t deliver an ice storm or anything.  Thanks, again, Phil and Joyce!  It needed another set of hands, other than Geoff’s, who could work tools and let Carver Krill help.  These kinds of projects are not easy for someone sitting down, although Geoff definitely contributed his opinion in building up from the bottom.  Enter stage right: Our friend Matt, who dragged tools and a variety of screws, washers, etc.  It needed my brother most importantly because he was the one who actually paid attention when we took it apart the weekend we helped to empty Gordon’s house with all of my aunts.   Greg is an architect on Martha’s Vineyard (who incidentally was just promoted to a principal architect at his firm- Hutker Architects of Vineyard Haven–very proud big sister here), so he pays attention to details, and he took pictures while we disassembled so that one day, we could actually reassemble.  Side note: Greg Ehrman also read my book, finished it while they were here over Christmas.  For those of you who know my brother, reading isn’t something he enjoys as a matter of leisure activity.   So, if he sat down and read it, that has to be something of a page turner.

Like all good building adventures, we had our families present to watch the miracle unfold.  Only two hours later, Geoff stood behind the bar, while the kids snuck a variety of Grandma’s cookies down from upstairs to sell from behind the bar.  Some kids sell lemonade at lemonade stands; ours are clearly going to be selling holiday cookies and “mock”tails from behind their Daddy’s standing bar.   We moved some furniture around to make room for the 6 foot by 6 foot by 4 foot structure.  I am not an architect or very good with dimensions so I doubt my order is correct here– but it’s over 6 feet high, about 6 feet wide and about 4 feet deep.  Gordon did all the woodwork himself, and it truly is a work of art.  One day, maybe we will have a house big enough to display it in, and Geoff can make standing up part of his weekly routine.  Until then, it will live in our parents’ basement, and we will invite our friends periodically to come on over so Geoff can stand awhile.

Geoff says it actually feels good to stand because his back and legs are being stretched in ways they don’t get to ordinarily.  Plus, it’s a different view looking down on everyone else.  People forget that Geoff is actually 6’2” because he is always sitting down.  Greta tells him he is the shortest daddy she knows.  There was something really special about being able to stand next to my husband and have his arm around me for a few minutes in a way that felt very natural.  But for Geoff, it’s one of those reminders of another time, when he often was the tallest man in the room, who probably would have gone on to hike the Appalachian Trail had he not become paralyzed.  Thank you, Uncle Gordon, for having this awesome idea and following through on building it– I promise I will write your biography one day, as soon as I’m done this second novel I’ve just started.  Thank you to the big and little Krills, Ehrmans, and Nestors for helping to bring the standing bar back to life for all of us.

Taken in my Uncle Gordon’s house last summer before we took it apart and moved…


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