As many of you know my mother passed away in May of this year. She was the middle daughter of three girls. Her older sister, Mildred passed away many years before. And then over this weekend, her younger sister died. Her name was Margie.
Margie was 81, lived a simple life, and was the wife, for many years, of a farmer. And during about 6 years of my adolescence I spent summers on their farm. The interesting thing about sitting through Aunt Margie’s funeral was, she was born on December 29th, and we buried her on December 29th. How ironic, it seemed to me, that we would be celebrating the life of this humble farm wife who was far better than most in her simplicity.
As I was talking with my daughter Paige about my memories of those summers on the farm, it dawned on me that her husband, my Uncle Henry, taught me so many things that I had forgotten. And it all flooded back in that rush of memory and sadness.
Uncle Henry taught me in those summers how to fish and how to swim. His method was to throw you in the deep end and then you’ll find your way out. He taught me how to clean fish, shoot a gun, and hunt squirrels. He taught me how to drive a tractor, to bale hay, to work on a farm, to get up early and milk cows; to train cow dogs to corral the cows at milking time, how to put out feed, clean the stall, spread manure, put up electric fence, plant, chop and prepare tobacco for market. He taught me the satisfaction of a hard day’s work. I remember many days after hauling hay in the sweltering summer heat, and coming in to lay down on the cool linoleum floor and drinking cold milk, thinking “this is heaven.”
Part of the sadness of this day and remembering so many things in my early childhood, is that my own dad didn’t teach me these things. I’ve often wondered why. He was a good man, a simple man, and a hard-working. But somehow he didn’t see the need or know how to take an interest in his sons and teach them the simple things; the things about what it meant to be a real man. Oh, I’ve learned them – too many of them the hard way. But at least I’m glad God had someone in my life called Uncle Henry to teach me things that helped make me a man.
The question is, who taught you those manly man-things, those things that make you who you are today? More importantly if you are a father, are you teaching your sons how to do those things that help them grow up and take responsibility, to learn what it means to work hard and find satisfaction in work well-done? I had Uncle Henry. Who do you have?