Both my grandfathers were sawyers.
Men who operated the main saw in lumber mills in the 1940s and 50s – a job long ago turned over to machines. Aside from this, they were very different men.
My maternal grandfather, Tom built his own sawmill powered by a diesel engine. Quiet, serious and introverted, he built a successful lumber business. However, he was a man I never seemed to able to get close to. He seem most at home in a dimly lit room with a glass of whiskey.
My paternal grandfather, Oscar worked in one of the last water-powered sawmills in Ontario. He was a gregarious, outgoing man who made a modest living working for others. He played the harmonica, read tea leaves and told stories.
I’m two weeks into a digital storytelling project with inREACH, a youth gang prevention program in Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada. As I work with these young men to help them find their voice and tell their personal stories, I feel a deep connection to Tom and Oscar.
I always ached to understand Tom. I was sure he had much to tell me, but his wealth of life experience remained out of reach. Oscar, on the other hand, showed me how to use the tools in his workshop, read my fortune in tea leaves and told me stories – stories of the lost being found and the found being welcomed home.
I bring the spirit of these two men to the storytelling workshop each week – Tom helps me explore the dimly lit rooms and Oscar helps me find the stories.