Tucked away in a closet, there is a blue and white box, with red lettering that reads “SYSCO,” and blue lettering beneath it that reads “HOME STYLE COMPLETE BISCUIT MIX.” The box does not contain biscuit mix.
Taped onto the top of the box is a card, and in small, neat letters, it reads:
The wire was manufactured by Essex Wire Corporation in Detroit, Michigan. The company was founded in 1930 as an original equipment manufacturer for Ford. In 1998, the company was acquired by Superior TeleCom and became Superior Essex.
That was a legitimate acquisition. The acquisition of the wire? Probably less so.
He would have been only nine or ten when he “acquired” it. When he told me about it, he told me that the wire had just fallen out of a telephone truck. This was immediately after he told me a story about how he had climbed onto a pickle truck and stuffed his pants full of stolen pickles. I couldn’t figure out how a young boy would have acquired all that copper wire. But this is how I see it when I imagine it:
There is a young boy in Detroit in 1932. His family is very poor and he is very hungry. But hunger doesn’t stop a high-spirited, stubborn, clever little boy from enjoying himself. He spots a truck and lo and behold, the back is open. The sunlight gleams orange-gold on the metal inside.
His friend elbows him in the ribs. “Bet you won’t take one.”
That’s just plain stupid. Of course he’d take it.
There’s no one looking. He clambers into the back of the truck and tries to pick up one of rolls of wire, but he didn’t count on it being so heavy. The copper wire is wound around of roll made of metal and hard wood, but the boy is clever and he doesn’t skip a beat. If he can’t lift it out, he’ll roll it out.
It lands on the street with a thud and a clang. They hear the driver from somewhere off to the left and the other boy hops to.
The driver is quick but they’re quicker. They’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while. They carry it together and hide in the bushes until he goes away. This sort of thing probably happens all the time. There are many poor families and hungry little children.
It is 2012. The little boy is an old man. He has lived a full life. He served in the Navy during World War II. He owned a business. He married a beautiful woman and they have three children together. Those children have children, and some of their children have children.
And he still has the wire. He saves everything. After all, when he grew up in the 1930s his family was very poor and he was always very hungry. It's hard to shake that fear, even when that fear is only a memory.
His great-granddaughter makes jewelry sometimes, and it occurs to him that she might be able to make jewelry with the copper wire. She doesn’t have the heart to tell him that it isn’t the sort of wire she usually works with, so she takes it and spends the next few years puzzling out just what exactly to do with it. She tries unwinding the strands but they’re too thin. She tries sewing the strands in elaborate patterns in leather bands but that doesn’t work either. She thinks about selling it. She moves out of her parents' house and tucks it away in her closet.
It is July 15, 2015. He passes away.
His great-granddaughter still has the copper wire tucked away in the closet.
It is July 17, 2015. I'm writing about my Opa. It isn't really enough to cover a life. It's just one little piece of him that I have. A bit of copper wire and a few stories.
I'm listening to a song.
There are loved ones in the glory
Whose dear forms you often miss
When you close your earthly story,
Will you join them in their bliss?
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
There’s a better home awaiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky.
I love "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." I bought Troy Baker’s cover a couple of weeks ago. It's meant to be a happy song (in its way) but he sings questions and sorrows and fear of loss into it.
One by one, their seats were emptied.
One by one, they went away.
Now the circle has been broken
Will it be complete one day?
Before my Opa passed away, he said he would be with Jesus. He would not have put questions and sorrows into that song. For him, it would have been full of promises. He knew that he would be going to see his loved ones in the glory. I still love Troy Baker's cover, but it doesn't really match real life. That makes me happy.
Life is full of little things like this. Little things that remind you of joy, especially in the midst of sorrow.
It is July 19, 2015. I wracked my brains to think of something to write about Opa. Then I remembered the copper wire. That’s how my brain works. I think of something or I remember something, and then I go down a rabbit hole of thoughts that jump from thing to another. But it means I found a use for that copper wire.
Thanks, Opa. You were and always will be loved. I think I'll keep the wire, too.