Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sic transit gloria mundi

I believe that once before I posted a photo here of my father and the model Spanish galleon he constructed at age 18. Here is another, which Tom has just unearthed in my aunt's trove of photos, the "Charchive." (Click to enlarge.)

I was not yet a twinkle in his eye, although maybe he already had his eye on the pretty girl across the street. But I see in the photo the father I knew -- the mischievous smile, the white shirtsleeves and baggy trousers, the aspiring mechanical engineer, the gift of handiness.

What you can't see in the photograph are the tiny cannons on their wheeled carriages, the hinged covers of the gun ports, the ladders between decks, the cabin doors, the intricate rigging. As I was growing up, the galleon sat in the basement of our home in Chattanooga, slowly disintegrating. I was always puzzled why he didn't take better care of it, keep it in a glass case perhaps. But no, it gathered dust. It listed to one side. It was battered by the storms of six children who touched it, sometimes carelessly, in awe and admiration. Rigging went slack, carriages lost their wheels, gun-port covers fell into the sea.

As I recall, the galleon sank into oblivion at about the time my father died at age 64. I have no idea of its final fate. How sad that it is not still with us, in an honored place in some grandchild's home, white sails billowing, prow faced gamely into the future. Humans, like empires, come and go. Genes and love endure.