Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lessons From Home

Sometimes I find myself having difficulty remembering my childhood (actually, most of the time) , but he passing of Mom this past June has given me cause to do some reflection. And while there are many specific memories that I doubt I will ever recall, I have had the chance to think about the legacy that our parents left us. It’s with that in mind that I identify a few of lessons that they imparted to me specifically, but I think all four of their children collectively.

1. The gift of generosity. Mom was probably more guilty of this than dad was, but she loved to give things away. When she was able to financially…and even when she wasn’t, it seemed that she was always buying us something. She did her best to make our Christmas’ and birthdays special. And as we got older, if she had the opportunity, she would often try to send something she may have bought on HSN home with us.

Each one of us kids seem to have that same characteristic, although I think with a greater degree of fiscal responsibility. I am in awe at times of the generosity of Debbie as well as both Frank and Geoff (and of course their spouses – Walt, Clare and Lynn respectively). Whenever given the opportunity, each find a way to take care of a need or a want that they see in others.

2. The gift of hard work. It can never be said that mom or dad was lazy. From as early as I can remember, and throughout their entire lives, both of them spent countless hours trying to make our lives as comfortable as possible. While we had the dairy, they were both invested in making it successful. Dad would work six days a week driving the milk route while mom would process and bottle the milk. And when they weren’t doing “dairy” business, it was working in the fields for dad and running a household of four kids for mom.

When each of us was old enough, we were given a “job” as well. First it was helping dad on the milk route, but as he got bigger and stronger, we moved up to washing the dirty milk bottles. A hard job, but it paid a lot better. We also had our daily chores and opportunities for “seasonal” work like mending fence during spring break and putting in the hay during the summer. When mom and dad sold the dairy business, each of us found jobs as soon as we were old enough to have a social security card and have been gainfully employed since.

3. The love of the water. I really don’t know if when mom and dad bought the dairy in Sandpoint if they were thinking about the fact that it had two creeks running through it or not. And I don’t know if they considered the location of Lake Pend Oreille nearby in their purchase decision. But is has always been apparent that they loved the water. Part of that love may have been instilled by Grandpa Lyons and his love for the water and his lifetime spent building
boats. Both mom and dad spent parts of their early life on Lake Coeur d’Alene with their families. As we were growing, we enjoyed the “big” creek that wound through the farm and the “swimming hole” halfway down the property with the old stump overhanging the bend in the creek that we used as a diving board (and the site of my first, but not last, belly flop). We spent many summer hours molding blue clay we dug from the bottom of the creek bed into a variety of crude pottery items.

When they could, mom and dad would take us into Sandpoint to the City Beach where we improved our swimming skills until we were able to swim out to the docks and feel a bit more grown up. They purchased a ski boat that each of us learned to water ski behind and that Geoff caught his large Kamloops trout during fishing derby week. Later, when Grandpa died, dad inherited the cabin cruiser and even more time was spent on the water. Today, Frank and his wife Clare live full time on the water in their boat. All of us love going to the beach and feeling and smelling the freshness of the surf.

4. The love of the country. I’m sure mom and dad could have chosen to live in town instead of out in the country. I have to admit that during times growing up, I wanted to live in town. That’s where all the action was and it seemed where all of the fun occurred if I listened to the other kids talking at school. But in reflection, I’m so glad we grew up in the country. The farm offered us a place for adventure…and sometimes danger. That was a perfect recipe for kids. And while we didn’t have a lot of neighbor kids who lived close by, it also provided us many opportunities to learn to play and get along (at least most of the time).

Mom and dad also used the country side as their own form of escape I think. It seemed on at least one weekend a month, we would take a “Sunday” drive someplace. It would always be out in the country, never into the city. Dad would drive the old Rambler station wagon up old logging roads or through the back roads all over North Idaho and Eastern Montana. And when the opportunity arose, if there was an old abandoned building along the way, we would pull over to the side of the road and do some exploring.

There are other lessons that we all learned from mom and dad. Some were good and others, not so good. But I believe they did their best. As I look at our family now, I think they would have much to be proud of. Their children love each other with deep compassion and with respect for what we do. Each of us has excelled in our chosen fields of profession. Even though we don’t always agree on everything (which is a good thing), we’ve not allowed rifts in relationships to become chasms that can’t be crossed. While we weren’t raised in a “church” home and religion never seemed to the center of discussion, they both renewed their commitment to Christ in later years. And today, all of us kids love God as well.

I can only thank them for the lessons I learned.