Here am I with 75 years of often terrible experience under my belt to look back on. Much of the bad memories was my own fault. But I plunged on through each gate of turbulent waters as I reached for the stars with a firm testimony that Jesus Christ was waiting for me there with more work to do.
I can remember back at the turn of this century when I was facing a heart job that the LDS doctor warned me might be the end of me, I told him to wait then until I could take my first white water canoe trip. I had never done one before. It was a bitter cold winter and I looked around at the 67 or so friends I had in that ward and asked each one if he would go with me down our icy river in February.
There was only one soul willing to run the river with me. He was 75 years old but he was raring to go. Before we got out of the gate good I had turned the canoe over three times and my 75-year-old friend was worried about me as we struggled valiantly to pull the canoe in but I told him with sharp finality that I was having the time of my life and if he stopped the trip there just because we were soaking wet and had lost everything that I had brought with me to record that trip with, including my binoculars my telephone, my camera, my bundle of dry clothes and our sandwiches, oh, and my temple recommend and my paddle — that I would be distraught and frightfully unhappy.
And my 75-year-old friendly Bishop grinned as we brought the canoe to land on a convenient sandbar and we warmed up by bailing out the canoe enough that we were able to empty the rest of the water out by turning it over and he said, “I’m having the time of my life too.”
And with that we plunged back into the river with excitement rushing through us, a great exuberance that sustained us all the way to our destination, safely, with a few more dumps, yes, but we were both still radiantly alive and raring to go when we emerged from the river. What a wonderful time that day was, birds singing all along the way and experiences never to be forgotten with the wildlife that expected no one to come down that river in February! Too bad about my camera.
We saw a giant Eagle that let us approach right to the foot of that tree she was perched on before those powerful wings quickly bore her away. She was the largest eagle either of us had ever seen and there were lots of eagles in that area. Later that day we saw a dead tree with nothing but Eagles on all those branches, turning it plumb black.
I remember one Kingfisher that kept us company all the way through his territory. I remember one indigo Bunting that was so beautiful and it just zipped across the river and disappeared into a large tree.
My friend did such skillful work with the only remaining paddle that I was delighted and amazed. “Oh Lord,” I prayed. “Let me be like him when I am 75.”
Well, here I am, age 75. That prayer has been answered. With just a little bit of stabilization I am able to walk a country mile and I am able to pick up my wheelchair and carry it over the rough places so I can go on. There is so much going right for us that we are sustained for whatever happens to us. We have so many choice friends here in this ward and strung out behind us. I have the love of my life never far from my side. And once again I have worked my way through the pains that have beset me for so long and the future looks brighter ahead than it has ever looked before.
Tina, my fifth daughter, has been wonderful to us. She has given us the pleasures of being grandparents to her children and the children she has adopted to raise up with her own. What a great satisfaction that relationship is to Marleen and I. We absolutely love being grandparents.
Cheryl, my baby daughter, is also glad that we shall be soon in their midst again. She was the one child that clung to me with love and affection when the whole world had turned against me. She knew I was penniless but still came to visit me often. One time she came and I invited her to a brand-new two-story fitness club that was just opening. They had an introductory price of three dollars each. So we went there and were stunned to see their prices had moved up considerably. “Do you understand what that means?” I asked her.
She nodded sadly as her expectations of a good time were dashed before her eyes. “That means,” I told her. “That we will have to have twice as much fun when we go in there.” And boy, did we ever have fun in that marvelous beautiful gym. The whole upper level was our domain that day and we went from machine to machine and Cheryl got to use every one of them. Then we went downstairs and had a wonderful milkshake and a candy bar each.
So here I am at age 75 today, yesterday as it now is, and I was able to do all the dishes and sweep the floor at one stand up session. And I have been humming “when there’s love at home” all the way through. After resting a bit I plan to mop the floor.
This is the physical heritage I have to pass along to all my children. “When you reach my age, you too will still feel excited about your future, instead of being dismayed by a failing body and stuttering mind that will no longer serve you. For my mind is clear and my joints and my marrow are better now than ever before.”
There is not a penny in my pocket, but the future looks lovely to me thanks to my wonderful wife. I thank everyone for the birthday wishes that Marleen told me were put up on Facebook. I wish you all inherit a life as exciting as mine has been. Even if you do end up as broke as I am, I pray you will also each have a great bundle of love blazing in your heart.
A note from Cheryl this morning: If you’ve taught us nothing else, you’ve taught us the value of life other than money. I have very little, but I am blessed beyond words. I have 3 amazing sisters, who would do anything in the world for me. I have a bf who has become everything I could ever have asked for in a man. I have 4, and almost 2 more, of the greatest children in the world, who mean absolutely everything to me, and bc of you, we know how to have fun and appreciate the world around us, without spending a dime. I know how to enjoy my children, bc of you.
You asked me, once, what I would tell my children about you, if I would just remember the bad. I choose to pass on to them the long walks in the countryside, the fishing, always helping others, even when you have very little to give. I choose to remember the ice cream cones at the dairy bar, when all you had was pocket change. I remember you taking us to turn in pop bottles at Mr. Welch’s store, so we could get another. I remember riding the tractor with you and sharing candy. I remember the noise you make with your mouth, after you take a drink, and how I used to try to imitate it, bc I wanted to be just like my daddy. I remember red hots and hot sauce, pancakes with homemade syrup, chocolate gravy, the bread pudding you would throw together. I remember how you were always experimenting in the kitchen, and how you mixed all your food together. I remember you letting me make those silk screen shirts and giving me bracelets from your store. I remember painting those things with you, at that Towers place, and the fun of hanging out in pawn shops. I remember you dropping everything and spending hours with me, and I loved every minute of it!
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I valued every minute you gave me of your life, Cheryl. I remember one hot day riding that bicycle 30 miles out to Carlisle to see you. Oh, I was tuckered. But my vehicle made it all that way on just one pancake, If I had been eating dynamite I couldn’t have gone even half an inch farther!
And a few minutes later, a note came from Ginger Medine: Growing up poor (has) taught me so much.
First of all, it taught me the value of hard work, and how to work hard. There are very few men who can out shovel me today.
[response from Tink: I used to shovel so fast I would break 1-2 shovel handles per month! One morning, after I broke that steer’s neck, Bill came out to rotobuck the field for me. As I was changing 200 rows to match the rotobuck I showered down too hard on the shovel handle and it broke.
[I left the little end there and turned myself around so that I pulled the dirt instead of shoveling. When I looked up some while later, Bill and Manual were gone. I had the head of water running when they came back. Manual grabbed a shovel out of the truck bed and jumped the ditch to give it to me. “Bill said this one was special and he hoped you would’t break it.”
[When I picked it up I grinned. Indeed it was a special shovel, it was all steel. That was three decades ago, I haven’t broke it yet.]
Ginger continues; I know how to do basic car mechanics.
I know how to push start a manual transmission car—a skill that has come in handy a few times.
I know how to milk a cow, and a goat. I remember our three pigs you named Oscar, Myer and Weiner. They would go down and lie down in the highway. They wouldn’t move for anybody but you.
I know how to feed animals and take care of them when they get sick and how to pray with them if they didn’t get better. I know how to raise a garden and how to keep it clean so it will grow vigorously.
I know how to save money and how to not blow money. Money doesn’t disappear into nothing, you know? Yeah daddy, I know.
I know how to type, because you said it would be an important skill someday and you taught me the basics. Now I love to write because of the example you set as an author with sizzling fingers.
I love to spend time with my kids and I know how to act goofy to amuse them because of the examples you set.
I remember how I never got too old to hope because you would come home and ask whose day it was. That lucky kid would be the proud recipient of whatever you had found out where you were working. Sometimes it would be a baby rabbit, maybe a snake, a baby bird you couldn’t get back in the nest, or just a ball or two that had floated down the canal. We kept up with our days because we never knew when Christmas would come popping early out of your pocket. Maybe it would be a raccoon, sometimes a skunk to transfer out of danger, I think we were the only family within 30 miles that had a wild mama skunk and five babies living with us with free range of the house. When I would get up in the night Mama skunk would pat the floor three times to let me know where she was that night. The baby skunks learned the same secret code. “Tap, Tap, Tap. I’m down here and you’ll be sorry if you step on me because I’m loaded.” I never thought that was strange, isn’t that strange?
Once you came to get us to fill up the cement tub with big buckets of fish that needed a transfer to the lower canal so they could go on living Fish have rights too, you know?
And often you would come to get us and you would stop because you had the deep-well pump running and you would work and work to throw up a tall dike that would hold so we would have a swimming hole made just for us. Cold, clear, water to swim in or splash in that we knew was safe because you stayed right there, watching us every minute. Your bold laughter joined ours, echoed ours, and sometimes started ours in order to stop some tears.
Once you came to get us to fill up the cement tub with big buckets of fish that needed a transfer to the lower canal so they could go on living, and often you would come to get us and you would stop because you had the deep-well pump running and you would work and work to throw up a tall dike that would hold so we would have a swimming hole made just for us. Cold, clear, water to swim in or splash in that we knew was safe because you stayed right there, watching us every minute. Your bold laughter joined ours, echoed ours, and sometimes started ours in order to stop some tears.
I remember rolling down the gravel road while hanging around inside an old tractor’s rear tire you had brought home for us. It was a family affair, three of us would set it to rolling and two of us would keep it rolling faster and faster until it made our heads spin. Nobody else had a merry-go-round like that one.
I remember a big, long fire hose that you turned into a stretchy rope that you hung in a big, tall tree for us, and I remember a steel bar you hung from another tree for us.
I remember floating down the river in that old, battered cement tub. We couldn’t afford paddles so you showed us how to use shovels for paddles. I remember riding the disk behind the tractor you were driving. Oh, you didn’t remember that, did you? I was so lucky!
I remember learning how to drive before my first day of school.
I remember how to cut rows, how to start pipes, how to change water.
I remember you showing us how to safely hang out over the edge and look down into the Grand Canyon.
I remember those hot days when you would come home and tell everyone to get in back of the pickup. We never knew if we were going to work or – what until you stopped. Maybe it would be a raccoon, sometimes a skunk to catch, sometimes a big bucket of fish to transfer to the lower canal so they could go on living, and sometimes we would stop because it would be the deep-well pump was running and you would work and work to throw up a tall dike and we would have a swimming hole made just for us. Cool, clear, water to swim in or splash in that we knew was safe because you stayed right there, watching us every minute.
I’m not sure I would have remembered Disneyworld even if we’d had the money to go, but I do remember all of these times, spending them with my family. And thanks to you, I value my own family more than I value money. So thanks for everything we didn’t have and couldn’t get, Daddy! You made it happy, you made it wonderful!