This sonnet is in honor of my father who recently celebrated a significant birthday. For as long as I knew him as a working man, he worked for The Timken Company. He rose from the assembly line, to heat treat supervisor, and then to heat treat general supervisor. It was said that, though he did not have an engineering degree, he had earned the metallurgist handshake.

As a child one apprehends what one’s father does, though one can’t fully comprehend it. My life was informed by his work, I grew up knowing about cups and cones, rollers, and bearings. The smell of machine oil and the grease which his shoes brought home, I can still smell today. I knew that (at the time at least), Timken only made tapered roller bearings and not ball bearings. I knew what heat treat was, and I had opportunity to visit the Timken plant in Columbus, Ohio where he worked in the 60’s and 70’s as well as the more modern Lincolnton plant to which he was relocated and to where we moved in the late 70’s.

While in Vancouver, BC this summer, I did a lot of walking in and around the University of British Columbia campus. I made use of a smart phone app that allowed me to see public transit and follow where I was. The experience, though helpful, was very different from trying to find my way by paying attention to my surroundings and following signs. The sense of getting one’s bearings was always in the forefront of my mind, and it didn’t take much to make the jump to making tapered roller bearings. So this one is for him.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Looking at a map is not the same as
Rolling round that place, strolling in and through,
Getting your bearings from where the sun has
Risen, run its race, where it’s running to.
We lock our eyes to a cage called a screen
Where wonder tapers to a point defined
Not a cone’s broad base but the meager, mean
Point that shrinks you to a tick on a line.

But when love tempers, you roll freely round;
Hardened against fear, in offering you
Hold cupped hands to share, you move through your town,
By faith, arrive where you’d always hoped to.
Grace rights your bearings to humbly learn
It’s not toeing the line, but where you turn.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog ( Thanks.
Artwork: Original linoleum block print, © Randall Edwards 2019.

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About randamir

I pastor Grace Presbyterian Church in Kernersville, North Carolina which locals fondly refer to as K-vegas -- the town not the church. As D.T. Niles once said, "I am not important except to God."

2 thoughts on “Bearings

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