Pop’s Lock

Every once in a while when I want to transport myself to another time and place I have only a short distance to travel. I walk across my room to my dresser and pick up an item that is small and seemingly unimportant. And in the grand scheme of life, it probably is. But for me, it carries the weight of history in its tiny metal shape.

It’s a combination lock, made in the 1930’s that would little significance to anyone but me. My grandfather bought this lock before he shipped out with the U.S. Navy in 1943 to fight in World War II, or as he called it, “The Big One.”

When I was a kid I used to see that lock in his dresser in the basement, along with his Navy bag, an American flag and some other military knickknacks.  In my tiny hands, the lock surprised me by how much it weighed. I would fiddle with the lock, trying to open it, spinning the dial randomly and tugging on the clasp. It would never open and Pop would never tell me the combination. For a child who revered his grandfather and looked at him as the embodiment of fun, complete with toys, games and endless amounts of candy, that lock was merely one more piece of a fascinating puzzle of the man who doted on me with his time and attention.

As I grew up and became a teenager I never lost the reverence with which I held Pop. He commanded respect as the patriarch of our family. Even though my time became consumed with school, sports, theater and jobs, spending time with my grandparents was always a priority. One day as I prepared for high school he had a question for me.

“Do you want to use this lock for your locker?” he asked.

“Sure,” I probably replied. I remember being thrilled. Not only because he entrusted me with this keepsake of his past and his role small but important in our nation’s history but also because I would finally learn the combination to the lock.

He told me sequence and showed me how to open it. I must have practiced over and over again until the spinning dial, which spun with the practiced ease and smoothness of a roulette wheel, found the numbers almost instantly.

When the first day of school came, I was nervous, not knowing anyone. Yet, I felt a tiny sense of reassurance because I had a piece of Pop with me. After all, if he could encounter the horrors and anxieties of war, what was a little high school? Slipping the lock onto my locker gave me pride, knowing that out of all the locks in the entire school none had the backstory that mine did. My less-than-inquisitive peers never asked and that suited me fine. This was my small moment that I shared with Pop, a connection that brought a smile to my face whenever I needed to grab my books or stow something in my locker for later.

These are the things that give our lives meaning — items that, over time, gain importance and meaning based on who previously owned them, how they were used and how they came into our possession. I have a few of these things in my life — precious items from the birth of my children and their childhood, items from my courtship and marriage along with some cherished baseball cards, a General Electric radio from 1925 and a few other things.

But few things rival the poignancy and significance of that lock. As I’ve gotten older the lock has taken on more meaning, not less, even though I haven’t used it in years. Pop passed away a few years ago but that lock still sits proudly on my dresser, a relic of my past and his, joining us together, ready for use by my boys when they head off on an adventure and need a little comfort and guidance.


The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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