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Tinkering Fathers…Growing Old Gracefully

Last evening my husband and I were working late and had to make a quick trip over to a neighboring town to the body shop.  My parents live near Grey Eagle so I called them and asked them to join us for a quick supper at the local bar.  It was Taco Night. 

While we were eating my dad asked if we had time to stop at his office on Main Street just two doors down from the bar he wanted to show us what he had worked on there.  My husband said he wouldn’t be able to but I could since we drove separate vehicles.  I could tell Dad was excited about his latest project so immediately after we finished eating, we paid for our dinners and walked over to the office, Dean headed back to work to meet a customer at our shop.

When we arrived I followed Dad back to one of the offices near the back of the building.  He has a desk with a laptop computer in the room.  As I looked around the room I noticed a piano keyboard, a tripod for a camera on the counter and a piece of paper with the words Happy Birthday Elise printed on it.  I thought who is Elise?  Then Dad explained that Elise is one of the girls in his confirmation class that he teaches at church. 

Dad started tinkering with his laptop to show me what he has worked on.  He pulled up a file on his laptop and opened it.  It was a Claymation animation file.  Dad has taught himself how to do animation on his computer at age 74, almost 75.  His reason for learning is to make his confirmation class more interesting for the students.  The Happy Birthday Elise paper is his present project and first attempt at animation. 

He has learned how to write the words a quarter-inch at a time, take a photo of each step and convert it into animation so it looks like Happy Birthday Elise is being written all by itself on his computer screen.  He told me that the finished project at this point in time is 172 frames for the animation to write Happy Birthday Elise.  Elise has a birthday coming up and the week of her birthday he would like to start class with the animation on the screen wishing her a Happy Birthday.

There have been times in my life when I looked back at my Dad and thought that he was never around when I was growing up and that he was always working, too busy.  I suppose feeling sorry for myself for one reason or another.  It wasn’t about him it was more about me.  I don’t know what I thought he should have done and hadn’t, but it wasn’t a fair evaluation of the situation.  Dad’s project last night brought back many memories of growing up and special things that Dad did that I had forgotten about.

My brother was in Boy Scouts growing up and each year they had the annual Pine Wood Derby.  No one else had a chance of winning if my Dad and brother were in the race.  Dad and my brother worked for months on the pine car.  They were constantly working on the weight distribution and the contours of the car for the least amount of friction through the air as it traveled down the track.  It was a big event at our home for each of my three brothers.

Science fairs were also a big deal at our home.  Mom and Dad would both get into the project with which ever one of us six kids had a science project to work on that year.  One project that they helped my brother build was an apparatus that would test the effects of alcohol on a task.  The task was to move a handle with an eye hook on the end around a wire that looked like a roller coaster path.  If you touched the eye hook to the wire as you went through the course it would light up a bulb.  They had measurements along the course to keep track of how far you made it through the course.  It was a hard course but not impossible. 

Next they started consuming glasses of wine, one each hour, Mom and Dad, not my brother.  It was his job to record the results of their paths through the course.  They did several runs of the course without alcohol and then tested once each hour after their consumption began.  They did this for several hours one evening while we were watching a movie on TV.   My brother received a blue ribbon for the project but it was truly a family affair. 

One of the observations that I have made in the past few years as I was approaching the age 50 and beyond is that there are two ways to grow old.  One is to sit and think of all that might have been and feel sorry for yourself about all the things that you perceive to have been failures in your life.  It is easy to sit home and not be involved in the lives of others.  Waiting at home for them to come to you. 

 The second way to grow old is to do it gracefully.  Don’t resign from life as you retire but embrace it.  Don’t be afraid to learn new things and interact with other people.  My Dad at age 74 isn’t afraid of junior high and high school students.  He wants to take part in life. If that means learning something new to interact with young people he delves head on into it. 

I’m a long way off from retiring and maybe financially I may never be able to but I know from my Dad’s example that I will never retire from life, maybe my current job, but not my life.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Family, Inspiration, Life Happens

 

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