What is it about being a grandpa — at least for me — that so appreciates the building of things and wants to build things himself?

I think I understand that physical things don’t last. Dad always lectured us that, “Nothing lasts forever.” So, I think for me, then, that my appreciation of building things comes from wanting to leave some kind of legacy, especially in my heirs’ memories, which will last longer than my growing-shorter-every-day short time left on Earth.

So even though physical things don’t last, my own building frenzy of late has included constructing what is called a “joggling board,” “joggle bench” or “jostling board” in anticipation of my grandsons visiting us for a “Camp Grandma and Grandpa” week-long eastern N.C. summer camp.

This intended-for-the-front-porch bench is built with a long, pliable board supported on both ends by wooden stands. The board is springy, and when sitting on it, one can satisfyingly (like the pleasing sensation we all share in rocking chairs) bounce up and down. Sources differ on the origination of the joggling board but its usage by courting couples to “joggle” themselves closer to each other as they rhythmically bounced up and down under the watchful eyes of parents in the Low Country of South Carolina in the early 19th century is documented.

My joggle bench is painted in “Charleston Green,” a color allegedly created by Charlestonians as a form of silent dissent during post-Civil War Reconstruction by mixing several parts of their own green and yellow paint to the Yankee-provided black paint. It often looks black, but depending on the time of day and the light, the green shows through.

Two of our six grandkids are visiting from Maine for “Camp Grandma and Grandpa” this week. We’ve found our grandsons love that joggling board and its gratifying bounciness. You even get a breath of wind as you move up and down, also very satisfying on hot, humid eastern North Carolina afternoons.

And I needed a 30-foot long ladder to install the rope swing I built in our side yard oak tree in anticipation of the boys’ visit. It’s constructed of a Charleston Green-painted single, salt-treated board and a 25-foot natural hemp one-inch rope hung from a sturdy branch. I prefer not to climb ladders anymore — especially 30-foot ones — at my ripe, old 65-plus years of age. But the boys love the swing and it's super-high, “break the pull of gravity and blast into outer space” apogee, so it was worth climbing 30 feet to tie it to that branch.

Speaking of building things, traveling to pick up my grandsons in Maine, I had the opportunity to visit Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine last week and tour the next Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer to be launched, DDG-116, the USS Thomas J. Hudner. My son-in-law works at BIW helping to build these ships.

The complexity of a weapons system like the Arleigh Burke DDG really made me appreciate the difficulty of constructing a ship like her. From its chilled water system to its Aegis Combat and SPY-1D multi-function passive electronically scanned array radar systems, from its 5-inch gun system to its fresh “haze gray and underway” paint, the USS Hudner is a real thing of beauty. I've always been patriotic, but seeing this brand new ship and chatting with and sensing the pride of the fine young men and women from every part of America (including North Carolina) who crew her (yes, she had that new car smell!) just strengthened and reinvigorated my appreciation for our military.

Even the USS Thomas Hudner will one day end up sunk as a reef or cut apart for scrap. But what about DDG-116’s namesake, Medal of Honor awardee Captain Thomas J. Hudner Jr.? Read about something that really lasts like relationships built from the love. If you Google Hudner’s name you’ll understand the love and devotion that caused America’s newest Man of War to named for this hero.

Back home in North Carolina and following a pizza and salad supper last evening, I gave the boys a second helping of ice cream with caramel sauce for dessert. I told them they could use as much of the caramel sauce on their ice cream as they wanted. They both said in unison, “We like it here. When can we come back?”

So in some ways — maybe most ways — more complex than even the most complex weapons systems America can build and man … and far more historic than joggling boards … maybe I’m building something that will last beyond me too, even if part of the construction means enduring love for our grandsons and painting vanilla ice cream with a thick cover of sweet, brown caramel sauce.


Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at fetzerab@ec.rr.com.