Memory Triggers


The forecast in Tokyo called for light rain this morning, and as I looked out the window the weatherman got it right.  No problem, I noticed that the convenience store downstairs from the hotel sells umbrellas, so I would stop there before waking to work.  For about $10 I got a collapsible umbrella.

Have you ever done something completely inconsequential that triggers a powerful memory in you?  It can be something completely silly, but all of a sudden…

I was telling someone the other day that I used to be a very boorish, brash individual (some of you may remember those days).  I was confrontational and always needed to be right, and even when I wasn’t right I was usually the loudest voice.  However I have made a conscious concerted effort to change those ways, and am (I think) a lot more respected now, both as an IT Professional and as a person.

Some fifteen years ago I was visiting with my Zaide (grandfather).  It was raining, and he loaned me his umbrella.  It was a nice collapsible model with a leather handle.  Back then I tended to wield any item I held as a weapon; I was not gentle to say the least.  He knew this, and asked me to take special care with the umbrella, and to return it to him when I could.

Of course, I broke it.  I regretted it, and tried to find a replacement that was identical to the one I broke.  I was unsuccessful in my attempts, and decided to just hide it and plead ignorance.  Zaide never said a word about it… but knowing the man he was, I suspect he knew.

Victorinox Going back much further I remember going through his drawers as a child (I was probably eleven or twelve) and finding his Swiss Army knife.  I pilfered it, always planning to return it.  I took it to the wooded area not far from where we lived at the time and tried to use it to cut… something, I don’t remember what.  I do remember being horrified when I chipped the blade.  I put it away, and brought it back to put it back into the drawer where I found it.  Again, Zaide never said a word… it was just another way that I disappointed that great man over the course of the years.

I wish I would have been honest with him, both about the umbrella and the knife.  I wish I could say to him ‘Zaide, I am sorry; I was not careful with your umbrella, and I broke it.  I took your Swiss Army knife without telling you, and it broke so I returned it.  I was going to return it anyways, but I am sorry both for taking it without permission, and for breaking it.’  Zaide would have been terribly disappointed in me, and would have given me a stern lecture on respecting other peoples’ property.  Of course, he would have been right.

In truth, If I were the man then that I am today, I would likely not have broken his umbrella, and I would not have taken his Swiss Army knife without permission… so I would not have had to apologize.  I expect my Zaide would have been proud of the man I have become; I only wish he were alive to see it.

After his passing a little more than a decade ago we were cleaning out his apartment and I found the old Swiss Army knife.  I  opened it up to look for the chip.  Zaide had fixed it by grinding it down.  The blade was that much smaller than it had been, but extremely sharp and perfectly functional.  Leave it to my grandfather to fix a problem that to the twelve year old me seemed unsolvable.  I still have that Swiss Army knife.  I don’t use it or carry it around… I don’t carry my own newer Swiss knife either.  However you can be sure that I know exactly where my Zaide’s knife is, and treat it with respect.

I think when I am home next I will pull it out, clean it, and oil it.  Just for Zaide.


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