Sunday, June 4, 2006

Turning Coal into Diamonds

He was a small man, the stereotypical smiling Irishman, and he had a hard time finding a decent job in New York. "Irishmen and dogs need not apply," said the signs in the windows. So for years he drove a coal truck to feed his family. Dirty work – he’d be a sooty, sweaty mess by the end of the day, but his eyes always glinted and twinkled like he had the biggest secret.

Older now, he had a bungalow in Jersey and a tiny boat to chase the Atlantic bluefish. A proud grandfather, he spoiled the little ones rotten. Lace dresses for the girls, baseball gloves for the boys. Nana protested such extravagance, but Pop-pop just kept smiling.

The coal that fed his family finally killed him, emphysema burying his last breath in ashes. It was then that Nana came to me. "Pop-pop left this for you," she said, handing me a tiny velvet box. Years earlier, Pop-pop had surprised Nana with a magnificent diamond ring – a half-carat stone for every grandson, a full-carat for every girl. When he passed, Nana took the stones and had them made into 5 separate rings, one for each grandchild.

At the time, I wasn’t impressed. I had no need for a ring and I wanted my Pop-pop back. I wanted him to take me fishing ("No place for a girl," said Nana), and buy me a scary monster costume for Halloween instead of the princess I was supposed to be. I shoved the ring in a drawer and forgot about it.

Somehow, through marriage, children, divorce, the tiny velvet box and its contents have endured. And now, finally, I get it. Quietly, slowly, he had turned the soft, sooty dirt into hard, glittering beauty. An eternal, twinkling star to outshine all the darkness. Thank you, Pop-pop, for me, for all, for everything.


WriterDude said...

Beautiful. Having mastered the ability to make various beverage liquids come out of folks' noses, Annie now shows an ability to make their tear ducts emit fluid as well.

Not mine, mind you. But certainly some. ;-)

BS(bob) said...

Beautiful indeed. Nice job of poetically describing the poetry in your Pop-pop's life. And your Nana too for finding a way to pass it on to you so you could discover it after all these years.

Anonymous said...


What a lovely remembrance.

"burying his last breath in ashes." Sad and haunting phrase.



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