Lessons of my Father
Mom has not written this blog for quite sometime. That’s because her mind has been elsewhere (apparently women of a certain age tend to forget where they put things). She says that’s not true, and it was really because her father, who was in hospice for 2 yrs., 8 months, was losing his 11 year battle with colon cancer. He lost that battle January 16, 2014. At the funeral, she gave the eulogy for her father. She decided to speak from her heart to her young, teenage nieces. These are the lessons she learned from her father.
Lessons of my Father
in memory of my dad, Wilfrid Deschenes, Jr, 6/26/1935-1/16/2014
by Judith Deschenes
I am going to speak to my nieces. Your mother and I were lucky enough to have our dad for over 50 years. It was a gift neither of us thought we’d have that long. You are both so young, though you shared your lives with him, you didn’t know him like we did. So I thought now is a good time to share some of the lessons I learned from my father.
Never stop learning. Watch. Ask questions. Question EVERYTHING. It will often drive people crazy. People may even “humor you” with their answers. Don’t let it bother you. Lord knows, it never bothered your grandfather! In dad’s case, he would question everyone –
“Why are you doing it this way? How do you do that?” – To your grandfather, contractors, plumbers, electricians, roofers, were all an opportunity to learn. Truthfully, we suspect, all that “free” advice and information was added to the bill….It seems your grandfather always asked the most questions from people who charged by the hour. But the knowledge he gained was invaluable.
He used what he learned to do repairs in his own home. It saved money – money that was needed to care for your grandmother and four kids. And truthfully he loved it. He loved to putz in the cellar with his “stuff”. To build and to create. When your mom and I, had our own houses, the knowledge your grandfather had acquired was used to help us fix and repair our homes. He gave us his knowledge and time. He gave it away, and asked nothing in return. His Love was not a thing, OR a word. His Love was Action.
Life is about joy. Sing if that’s what’s in your heart – even if you sing so off-key your whole family in the church pew with you are pretending they don’t know you. In case you didn’t know, your grandfather’s singing sounded remarkably like snoring, so much so, that one time in church, your grandmother elbowed your grandfather because she thought he’d fallen asleep again. He turned and looked at her incredulously and said “WHAT? I’M SINGING!” After that, she always double checked to see if his eyes were open before she threw the elbow.
Laugh. Remember don’t take yourself too seriously. I did many home improvement projects with your grandfather. We would discuss how to do something like screw in a kitchen cabinet. But, I’m stubborn and not very patient. Your aunt and your grandfather would often say, “you know if you just do such and such”. But oh no, I’m the person under the cabinet, surely I know what I’m doing! And then I would swear. And swear some more. Since we’re in church nothing I said is totally repeatable here!
Your grandfather and your aunt had a look they shared – it was that “We’ll just wait her out” look. And when I finished ranting, I would look up to see the two of them smiling. And then all of us would laugh…yes, they were always right! I can’t tell you how many times, he’d remind me to Stop. Think. Problem solve. But most importantly, to stop taking myself so seriously. Life is too short not to laugh!
Be Self-Reliant. You’re going to find that life isn’t always fair – in fact it seldom is. You may not know it but your grandfather worked for a company for over 20 years, well before he worked at the IRS. He expected to retire from that company but life threw him a major curve. They laid him off, after he trained his much younger replacement. He went from being an engineer to working at McDonald’s. Some people would have given up. And he had every right to. But your grandfather, was not a quitter. He swallowed his pride so he could provide for his family. Family was important. Family was everything. His lesson to us was, don’t ever quit, be self-reliant, and be responsible. Real Success is putting others before yourself. Success is family. You’re going to lose jobs, and get another – you’ll fall down, you’ll fail, you’ll get up and keep going. Work hard – and never give up – doors will open for you.
Know what battles are worth fighting. When your daughter is squishing mashed potatoes through her teeth at dinner, (yes, that would be me), keep eating and pretend nothing unusual is happening – those are the things in life that are best ignored. But when your life or the life of those you care about are threatened, battle with the last ounce of your breath. That’s what he did with cancer. He fought for himself. He fought for your grandmother. He fought for us. Remember him by never giving up.
I want to read a poem by Emily Dickinson. Except for the fact, your grandfather was not an earthy, crunchy, nature guy, (his idea of earthy was chopping down your grandmother’s lilac bush when she asked him to prune it, and crunchy was a bag of peanuts), I think this poem describes how your grandfather lived his life :
If I can stop one Heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one Life the Aching
Or cool one Pain
Or help one fainting Robin
Unto his Nest again
I shall not live in Vain.
Remember your grandfather.
And remember the greatest gift you can ever give another person is Yourself.
I love you Dad.