On Thursday evening, my maternal grandfather, Douglas Churnin, passed away surrounded by his wife, his four children, his closest friend and his oldest grandson.
My grandfather met my grandmother in a surprisingly familiar story. At 15, his mother asked a neighbor if their daughter, aged 13, could help tutor their son in French and Math. Smitten with his tutor, five years later they were married. Sixty nine years later, they had four children, seventeen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Work with your hands
Douglas Churnin was always a man who worked with his hands. Though educated at NYU, he was always more comfortable and confident with any project or activity that involved working with physical material. Generous and selfless, his favorite expression was to respond to a request with “no problem”.
He was a big man, with old fashioned strength. Interestingly, he would never admit to being six feet tall. He would always insist he was just “five eleven and three quarters”.
When I think of my grandfather, and all of the projects he helped me with over the years, I can’t help but reflect on the parables and expressions that were his favorites:
- Measure twice, cut once
- With the right tools, any job is easy
I ended up being an engineer myself, and although I spend the dominant share of my time working with ethereal, virtual software, those who know me know that I find incredible comfort in working on projects in the physical world. It’s one of the reasons I make far too many trips to Home Depot, and why I’m always eager to not just read about how things work, but actually take the time to build them.
Measure twice, cut once
They say it’s impossible to really know your parents as people, and thus imagine the difficulty trying to really understand the life of someone born two generations before yourself. But while I may have only had the opportunity to really know a sliver of my grandfather’s life, I find myself shaped significantly by him.
When I’m rushing through designs and organizations in the incredibly fast paced technology world, it’s useful to remember that some changes can’t be undone. For those, you should truly measure twice and cut once.
When I’m struggling with a problem, based on some sort of ridiculous, MacGuyver-inspired, “fix it with paperclips and bubblegum” solution, it’s worth remembering that investing in the right tools can make any job easy.
When I’m thinking about how I want to live my life, it’s worth remembering that Douglas Churnin married the woman he loved, built a life together for sixty nine years, and passed away surrounded by the large, vibrant family he helped build.
It’s wonderful to know that it can and does happen, even in 2012.