My Grandpa Carl was big and strong. There was nothing he could not do. He was a firefighter, a commercial fisherman, a builder, a chef, and most of all, my grandpa.
Grandpa Carl always took time to play with my brother and me so, it was no surprise that, when at ages five and three, we asked if we could build a fort and he was happy to oblige.
The site was my grandparents' house in Terra Linda with its huge backyard, or at least it seemed to be, with its little forest of fig trees and field of grass. High up on the patchy hill we had a pile of light brown wood, except for one purple plank. With Grandpa's help, we gathered nails and screws, a hammer, a drill and a saw. We worked all day. The only time we stopped was when a wasp stung me on the tip of my nose. My grandpa comforted me and made me smile by soothing my wound by dabbing cold, vanilla ice cream on my nose.
After the wasp incident, our progress slowed. I kept away from the small bumps in the ground with the slightest buzzing sound coming from them. By day's end, we had built the smooth base of the fort, with a couple of crooked planks attached to it and some protruding nails. Next to the fort and under some pine needles, the purple plank remained on the ground.
On that hot day in my grandparents' backyard, even with the wasp attack, I had fun. I had never really built anything before. In fact, I was the type of kid who took his toy bulldozer and knocked down my big brother's Lego structures. Working with my grandpa and brother to create something made me feel proud.
We never finished the fort. But the project is one of the last things I remember doing with my grandpa before he died. Whenever I see wood painted purple, it reminds me of that day and how strong, tall, and happy my grandpa was before he got sick. I look forward to the day when I can build a fort with my children and grandchildren. I only hope I can build one as well as my grandpa could.
With a Perspective, I'm Ben Guggenheim.
Ben Guggenheim is a 9th grader at San Francisco University High School and lives in Mill Valley.