My grandfather’s pen

My grandfather died when I was 5, but I have a few memories of him. I remember the moment I realized that I could always bring him a book while he sat in that orange easy chair, and I could sit on the arm, and he’d read to me. I remember realizing that was the pattern, and something I could always count on.

When I was in my early teens, I came across an old Parker pen in my grandmother’s antique desk. When I brought it to her, she told me it was my grandfather’s, and since I was already a writer (of sorts, hah) she said I could have it.

I already had begun my love of A Beautiful Pen, although I hadn’t been bitten bad yet. In fact, this was the first Beautiful Pen I’d ever been given. I had many Cool Pens, but this was lovely.

At the time (as for the next decade) I hand-wrote my novels first. I had a little system: all the notebooks had to be the same color (to make identifying the books easier) and I would write with the same pen until it went dry. That’s because the pen contained my book, not yet stretched out, you see. I had to use the same pen so all the book was contained in the same tube of ink. Don’t tell me this is stupid. It worked, didn’t it?

Unfortunately,when I tried to write with Grandpa’s pen, the pen was dry. Oh well. At the time, I didn’t realize you could buy a refill for a Parker Pen, so I just brought home the pen and put it in my desk drawer.

Because it was my grandfather’s pen, though, every so often, I’d bring it out and scribble with it a bit. But it was still dry.

One day I mentioned this pen to my mother, who said, “What pen?” I produced the pen for her from my pit of a desk, and I showed her it was dry…

…except that it wrote.

And it kept writing. And kept writing. And I kept writing with it, using it for the current novel, keeping it with me at school. I don’t recall if it ever ran out of ink after that (until I left it behind for college, so it wouldn’t get lost or stolen).

It was my Grandfather’s pen, and I like to think he prays for me and cares for me, and he wanted to bless me with a never-ending supply of stories to match the ones he read me as a preschooler.


  1. cricketB

    I love the idea of the ink cartridge holding the story, like a piece of marble holding a statue.

  2. Lane in PA

    I will never look at a pen the same way again, and for that matter, a pencil, a paint brush, a musical instrument.

  3. Ken Rolph

    My paternal grandfather (Gramps) was deaf, so stories were rare. But he did buy me books. Mostly he made things. As I type I have my feet on a footstool covered with red and grey fabric. I remember when I was 8 sitting on it one Christmas to read the newest Secret Seven book which they had just got me.

    My maternal grandfather (Pop) gave me intellectual play. I remember struggling with the pronunciation of pneumonia. He told me, “It’s a silent pee, young Kenny, like in surfing”. I have his slide rule.

    I think those of us who knew our grandparents for some time grow into some kind of model of how to be that person when we get there. As a new grandpop I’m just finding that out.

    Grandparents can also give you deep foundations in history. I remember the day of the first moonwalk. I was watching it on TV in the Union at University. When I visited my Gran and Pop later I told them about it. Pop took me down to the back room where he kept lots of stuff. He dug around in some boxes and came up with a newspaper reporting that some brothers called Wright in America had achieved heavier-than-air flight. He said he knew exactly how I felt.

  4. Ivy

    If it was the 51, and if someone refilled it for you, it would write about 7 trillion novels on a refill. Those things have a bladder the size of Lake Erie. Reminds me, I have to get one of those restored one of these days, if I can still find it.

    I think I own one ball point. It was given to me by a yarn shop owner from the leftovers after their last Stitch and Pitch (go to a Mets game and knit). I might have a few roller balls here and there. The rest, fountain pens.

    The world is not set up for fountain pen users. They flow ink (real ink; not the pasty whatever ballpoints try to pass for ink) onto the page. They don’t press through. If someone tried the rubbed pencil trick on any of my notepads, they’d find nothing. I must borrow the bank’s chained-down pen for filling out the carbon-copied triplicate deposit form. Here I must wonder why, if I’ve walked in with a gold-nibbed Waterman, they think I’m going to steal their 5 cent Bic. I had to borrow a pen during jury duty for the carbon-copied quintuplicate form.

    Fountain pens don’t suit a carbon copy world, which is probably why dreamers love them so much.