Big Number

Last Sunday, I had a birthday.  42 isn’t typically a big deal when it comes to birthdays.  Traditionally, the big birthdays are marked by the decades.  It’s the big ‘4-0’, ‘5-0’ and so on…but for me, 42 is close to my heart.  My brother reached 42 just 3 years ago.  Now it was my time.   

I didn’t mention the word ‘birthday’ during Saturday’s gathering but when I woke up on Sunday, it was clear that Facebook certainly knew.  The inbox was stocked.  With 3/4th’s of a life occurring before social media, the wave of well wishes that arrived on Facebook had me partially missing the old-school birthday cards but heck, we definitely saved a few trees.  It also had me thinking back to how other things have changed over the years.  

Back in 1990, my driver’s ed instructor taught the class how to ‘set the choke’.  The first web browser had just been invented but the ‘World Wide Web’ was still a few years away.  Cell phones were big and expensive so we were lucky to have a pager.  [That had to wait until college.]  The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit.  

That same year, my father passed away from complications from Diabetes Type 1.  Starting at the age of 8, it was a health struggle.  He was given a life expectancy of 25.  Thankfully, medical science had improved and thankfully, he had two boys.  My father passed away at the age of 42.  For years, I wondered how I’d feel when I turned 42.  It is Sunday, September 27, 2015 as I type this section of the newsletter and well, I’m here.  42.  

With great emotion, I think back to my father’s tireless work ethic and how he passed it forward.  Hearing my father deep in the woods cutting trees meant that there would be wheel barrows full of wood for my brother and I to lift and stack in the backyard wood shed.  When the coal truck arrived at the front of the house, it meant that there would be a time coming for shoveling coal into buckets and loading the buckets in the stoker.  [The stoker was an elevated 55-gallon barrel that held the coal.  There was a feeder that would send the coal to the fire inside the adjacent coal stove.]  During the years when I was shorter than the stoker, getting the coal to the destination meant pressing the coal bucket overhead and tilting it over to fill the coal barrel.  After the hours passed, coal turned into ashes and that led to removing the ash bucket and walking it to the end of the yard for eventual disposal.  Without hard work and working on a schedule, the house wouldn’t be warm over the winter.  Very early in life, my brother and I were taught about the importance of hard work and being on time.  

Fast forward to 2015.  Our cell phones are smaller and so much smarter.  Hubble remains in orbit at 347 miles from Earth.  25 years have passed.  I get the feeling that my father set my preferred course to be just like Hubble.  Set it and forget it.  Get out there.  Consistently and quietly get the job done.  

To the fathers out there, do what it takes to set a proper course for your sons and daughters.  Shoot for the stars.  Set the best example for as long as your light shines.  Maybe pass forward your automotive enthusiasm.  Maybe you pass forward other facets of life that you hold dear.  Whatever the case, we all have one run.  Make the road special.  Much like the stars in the sky, from a distance, your light will shine long after you’re gone.  

For the first 42, dad, thanks.