Somewhere – in an auto wrecker’s scrapyard, probably – sits the primer-and-rust coloured 1983 Honda Accord that I drove in high school.
Somewhere else – maybe that same scrapyard, who knows – sits a 1985 Dodge Lancer, which was my brother’s first car. Others followed – a 1990 Ford Mustang, a 1992 Chevrolet Beretta and an old Toyota Tacoma among them.
Each one was not without its, uh, quirks. The Accord’s rear defroster never worked; in the Lancer, the fuse for the radio would blow when you turned the windshield wipers on high. Eventually the Tacoma’s engine packed it in.
One thing they all had in common, though – aside from a Blue Book value of less than $2,000 – was a great-sounding stereo. Like most teenagers at the time, we tore out the old radios and replaced them with CD decks and better speakers almost the instant we got them into our driveways.
Every one of those stereos was installed by my grandpa.
An engineer by trade – not to mention electrician, pilot, bowling-alley owner, outdoorsman, world traveller and a hundred other things – he was obviously more qualified than us, two teenage buffoons, when it came to such projects.
Truth be told, he was more qualified than almost anyone when it came to almost anything. At least that’s the way it always felt.
I thought about those old cars last week – and the hours my grandpa spent folded into one of the front seats, flashlight in hand, tools and screws spilled onto the seat next to him – because he passed away last week.
It wasn’t always easy work, those damn stereos. We’d run into issues – a faulty wire, a blown fuse, or an important screw that some grandson accidentally let fall between the seats. But he never complained. He loved it, honestly. It appealed to what he loved – building things, helping people and spending time with his family.
These were no amateur jobs, either. Wires were bunched and bound together, screws were tight. When Edward Gale Lynn put something together, there were no leftover parts. Measure twice, cut once, and all that.
That mentality never left him. In the hospital, he’d often express a desire to take apart the medical equipment to see how it worked, or make it better. Even curtain rods in the ICU can be improved.
In the wee hours of the morning one day, he gave my mom – one of his four children – a thorough rundown of how to build and run a pulp mill that he hadn’t worked in since the 1960s. He still remembered the colour of the time sheets.
Once an engineer, always an engineer, I guess.
Over these last few days – which have been jaw-droppingly difficult – I’ve realized that even though those old cars are gone, they aren’t, not really. I can still tell you exactly what the CD player in my old Honda looked like. I remember the first song it played.
And after we finally got that last speaker connected, I can picture my grandpa. I can see the look on his face – that satisfied look one gets after a job well done. I know what he would’ve said, too, even if I can’t remember it exactly.
“I think we got it, lad.”
Nothing leftover, either.
Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.