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    hand tools on a work bench

    Analog Hero

    One man’s quest to fix the world, one toaster at a time.

    By Maureen Swinger

    February 10, 2024
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    • Kerri Canepa

      Maureen, thank you so much for this love/praise of your dad. My own father was of a similar mold; he had a perfectly organized work room off our carport and there was nothing that he could not repair. His 'mixtape' would have been somewhat more eclectic - he listened to Janice Joplin, Andy Williams, Thelonious Monk, etc. He truly was the analog hero; I used to brag that if electricity or gasoline was involved, he could fix it (oh, and he mended broken ceramic, plastic and glass items as well!). His oldest brother and youngest brother operated a gas station/auto repair business and the brother just younger than he had a business that repaired white goods and small appliances. Apparently it ran in the family. To read about your dad brought back a flood of lovely memories of my dad. He passed away in 2002 in his early 70s but my mother and then my sister after my mother passed away kept the reduced collection of tools he had relocated in an under the stairs closet. It is still called 'Dad's shed.' My brother-in-law makes use of them from time to time. Earlier in his life, dad was a physicist but God had other plans and dad later became a priest of the Episcopal church. But he still fixed broken things. It brought him and everyone who brought him a broken object such joy to have it returned to usefulness. Thank you and blessings!

    • Patricia ONeill

      What a delightful story. I would love to meet Mr. Bazeley. Sharing your talents to benefit others is a wonderful ministry. Keep at it, Sir. God Bless you!

    MISSING: CORDLESS DRILL #2 HAS BEEN OUT FOR THREE WEEKS. BRING IT BACK.

    If you had toured through the coffee-break room of the Fox Hill Bruderhof’s communal wood shop anytime in the last ten years, you would likely have seen these words or similar scrawled in capital letters on the whiteboard stationed near the coffee urn. It’s a useful announcement board for birthdays and other local news, but my dad, Jeremy Bazeley, frequently employed it to recall lost power tools to their rightful shelf in the maintenance building.

    People would chuckle at the urgent missive – except for the guy who had left the drill sitting at home for the last three weeks, always a bit too busy to return it. He would have a moment of conscience, and the tool would be in its appointed cubby by the next morning.

    My dad’s notes are not intended to be shouty; he always writes in capitals – direct, concise, no frills. That’s who he is: a man of many thoughts but generally few words. At his own home and hearth, he likes to sit and listen to the general hubbub of three generations sharing dinner chat. But he might casually lob a dangerously dry pun into a conversational pause, without a twinkle or a smirk or any other wind-up. Whether general side-splitting ensues, or dull groans, he goes on eating. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

    We also have family one-liners dating back forever. On encountering each other somewhere around the community, one of us has to ask, “How’s by you the gold rush?” To which the other, if all is truly well, must respond, “More rush than gold.” Apparently it comes from an old Yiddish folktale. But it stands in for a lot of other words, and the day he doesn’t ask me that is a day I don’t want to think about.

    a man fixing a coffee maker

    Jeremy Bazeley in his workshop. Photograph courtesy of Maureen Swinger.

    This is a man who usually lets his actions do the talking. We kids remember frequent family hours interrupted by a panicked call, and he’d disappear in a matter of seconds to deal with any emergency from a generator that wouldn’t start in a thunderstorm to a communal-size washing machine that had gone on strike, when it darn well knew it was supposed to wash twelve families’ laundry that day. (There are many good reasons for sharing large machinery, but the downside is that dysfunction affects everyone.)

    We rarely had a toy he couldn’t fix or a Walkman (a what?) that didn’t get a new lease on life. We took it for granted that Dad could fix it, and of course we boasted about his skills to friends who then brought their equipment for a makeover. His workshop became a hospital for toasters, vacuum cleaners, sound systems, blenders – you name it, he had a wrench to fit. He would have been justified in saying he didn’t have time, but I never heard him say it.

    This has always been his way of making the world a better place, and I have a hunch that he takes a bit of a perverse delight in outwitting big business and built-in obsolescence. I’ve seen him absent-mindedly pat a stereo on the head as it went out the door: “Live on! Play another song!”

    This is fitting, because wherever his workshop has landed up over the years – basement, garage, or most recently a man cave directly off the living room – you can hear Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash booming through the floors or walls. The mixtape we made him for his birthday back when mixtapes were a thing was titled “From under the Workbench.” (Also under the workbench is a cache of every type of battery that can fit in a multi-compartment tool bin.)

    If I were making that playlist today, I’d have to include Mark Erelli’s “Analog Hero”:

    He’s the fix-it man, yeah, the fix-it man,
    He can’t put it back together, then it was never worth a damn.
    Maybe he’s crazy for trying to save what’s already gone,
    Or just an analog hero in a world full of zeroes and ones.

    Looking at him bent over his work these days, you’d have no idea that he is mostly blind. He also can hardly hear, and we tease him that it’s Merle Haggard’s fault. He directs bright lights and the occasional magnifying glass at his work, and the fingers and tools still know exactly what to do. It helps that every last tool is in its rightful place within arm’s reach, next to a printed label so it knows where to return. Watching him work is like seeing a maestro reaching for the woodwinds and then the strings, with each section poised and ready for their entry.

    Watching him work is like seeing a maestro reaching for the woodwinds and then the strings, with each section poised and ready for their entry.

    During Covid lockdown, he set up his shade arbor and picnic area for appliance drop-offs and repair. He didn’t sit around wishing he could go to the maintenance shop; the shop came to him. Once a six-foot-tall warming oven got rattled down the gravel path to his house from the communal kitchen, and rattled back again in the evening. Next it was the panel for an electric fence at the farm.

    One of the financial stewards here at Fox Hill started tallying up the savings one elderly, visually impaired, and determined fix-it man could rack up by just doing his thing, and it didn’t take long to run into five digits.

    Dad is about to turn seventy-nine, and he and Mom recently moved to a Bruderhof in Pennsylvania where my younger brother lives with his wife and four kids. Walking is harder for my dad now, so I’m glad he’s within a son’s reach (when he’s not whizzing off on his golf cart to go fix something).

    Recently a friend was rummaging through the maintenance building and found a standing work lamp with a label on its base, printed in Dad’s signature capitals: THIS LITTLE LIGHT IS MINE. When he brought it over, I couldn’t stop the laughter from erupting, but I was suddenly blinking back tears as well. It’s not his lamp anymore, and of course it never was, since Bruderhof folks share household goods in common. But it gave me joy to see his label, riffing on a song lyric to make a point. All things have a place and a usefulness; they ought to be findable in that place so they can be put to good use. And so, I suppose, should we.

    Contributed By MaureenSwinger Maureen Swinger

    Maureen Swinger is a senior editor at Plough and lives at the Fox Hill Bruderhof in Walden, New York.

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