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November Column Michiana House & Home Magazine: Belt Sanders, Boy Scouts and Bad Judgment

Belt sander           I was only upstairs for a minute when I heard my oldest son scream.

“Julie, come quick! Chris’ leg is caught in the sander!” My mother yelled.

I raced down the basement steps as fast as I could and when I reached my father’s workshop, there was my child, tears streaming down his face and the fabric of his sweatpants twisted around one of my father’s power tools.

If there were two things my father loved in this world it was his power tools and his grandson. He could do anything with the former and God knows he would do anything for the latter. So when the boy asked him to help him craft a Pinewood Derby car for an upcoming Cub Scout event, naturally my father said yes.

I only had one rule for this caper: No power tools. Cancer had made dad a little loopy and after his medications caused him to declare himself Batman, it seemed safer not to let him operate a major piece of machinery.

He disagreed and from the moment we started the project, he lobbied for me to lift the ban. “It would go a whole lot faster if I could just use my tools,” he commented.

“No dice,” I replied.

“Oh come on,” Dad pleaded. “It’s taking him a month of Sundays to make a cut using a manual saw, if I could fire up the jigsaw…”

“You could lose a finger,” I shot back. “I’m sorry. It’s not happening.”

Assuming he subject was closed, I went upstairs for a minute and sent my mother down to supervise the operation. However, in my absence, my father turned on the charm and convinced my son to let him break out a sander to smooth down their vehicle. What happened next is a bit of a blur, but from what I understand, dad bypassed his harmless, vibrating palm device and went right for his giant belt sander, which was about two-feet long, loud and dangerous. He gave the machine to Chris to hold while he leaned over the workbench to plug it in. When he reached for it, his hand hit the power switch causing the machine to come alive while it was still in Chris’ lap.

Dad felt terrible. He wouldn’t hurt that child for the world. It was a lapse in judgment and we all knew it even Chris, who was unharmed but convinced he would have to go through life with a belt sander stuck to his trousers.

“No baby, we’ll cut your pants off. It’ll be all right,” my mother promised.

“Why don’t we let him take his pants off and THEN worry about getting the fabric out of the sander?” I suggested. “Let’s not further traumatize the boy by coming at him with a pair of scissors.”

Admittedly it was not my father’s finest hour but it was a memorable moment and nearly 20 years later, even Chris has to smile when he hears the story retold. After all, time heals all wounds, that which does not kill us makes us stronger and humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.





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