You Can Learn So Much In a Year

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Ronald B. Wendell

6/7/1934 – 4/10/2014

I’ve learned a lot in the last year. I’ve learned that disagreements don’t mean much. I’ve learned that pride will rob you blind. I’ve learned that when people are still alive, it’s much easier to remember the bad times and after they die, it’s much easier to remember the good.

I’ve learned that all those sappy things that people say about making sure you let people know how you feel about them, are true. I’ve learned that it is much easier to let some people know how you feel about them than it is others. I’ve learned that those people that are the hardest to show how you feel about them, are probably the ones that need to know the most.

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Maybe the thing that I have learned the most in the last year is that no matter how you get along with someone, no matter what you choose to remember about them, they weren’t just that person that you remember. I’ve learned that what you remember about a person is filtered greatly by the level of difficulty you had in understanding that person. It is filtered by the difference between you and them, and sometimes, by the ways that you were alike.

Maybe the toughest thing I’ve learned in the last year is that sometimes the more strained your relationship was with them, the harder it is to deal with them being gone.

The story that I think will always be my favorite about my Dad, was the year that Lori and I needed to replace a section of roof on the back of our house. Lori and I figured that we could do it, we can be pretty handy. I’m not sure how my Dad found out about the upcoming project but he did. As soon as he did, he wanted to know all about it but mostly, when we were going to do it because he was going to be there to help.

I can’t remember the exact year or exactly how old my Dad was at the time but he was beyond the age that he should be ripping off an old rotten wood roof and putting on a new tin one over a set of cement stairs. I assured him that Lori and I would take our time and be able to get it done but he wasn’t having any of that. He wanted to know when we were going to do it and what time we wanted him to show up. As much as I tried to dissuade him and as much as I tried to not let him know when it was going to happen, he found out and because we wouldn’t give him an exact time we were going to start, he just told me that he would see me in the morning. In case you didn’t know my Dad, it could be impossible to change his mind, once he had made it up.

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My Dad was on blood thinners for a number of years before he died and he had already fallen off his own roof because he didn’t see the need to ask someone else to come clean the leaves and branches off of it. The thought of having my Dad climbing around on partially rotten beams that hung over cement stairs scared the crud out of me. But it became apparent that this was one of those times that it didn’t matter what anyone said, he had made his mind up and he was going to be there.

When the morning came, he and my Mom showed up first thing and he was probably the first one up the ladder. The rest of the story is pretty anticlimactic, thank you, Jesus. He climbed around that day as easily as I did and probably out-worked me in the end. We got the old roof off and the new one on and nobody fell onto the cement stairs below. At the end of the day I hugged him and thanked him and he walked away like it was nothing.

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I remember a story that my Dad told me a number of times through the years. He told me that early on in my Mom and his marriage, they were moving from one place to another. The place they were moving out of was upstairs and he had lined up a number of friends that all promised to come and help them move. The morning of the move though, nobody showed up. He told me that it was a hard day moving, that there were some things that were heavy enough that the only way he could get them down the stairs was to put straps around them and basically tie them to his back.

It’s funny but for someone who had a hard time talking about his feelings in a calm and cool way, he calmly told me that it wasn’t the actual work that he would never forget but the fact that for whatever reason, nobody that had promised him they would be there, ever showed up.

Even though we never asked and even though we tried everything we could to keep him off our roof, I think the reason he wouldn’t take no for an answer was because of that time probably a half a century before when nobody showed up to help.

Did you know, you can learn an awful lot in a year?

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