Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lessons from my Father - part 1

     Last week marked the 20th anniversary of my dad's untimely passing due to cardiac illness.  I was traveling, and only my sister's Facebook post reminded me of the significance of that day.  I've wanted to blog about my dad for a while now, and while he's certainly made appearances on these pages before, I've never sat down and thought about all that I learned from him and put it into a comprehensive blog, so that is this morning's task.  I'm not sure how many normal size blogs that it will take, but before I even begin, I know the number is more than 1.  

 Lessons from my Father

Paul Cooper Yarger
     Persistence pays off - I could cite a lot of examples of this in my dad's life, but none more powerful than the story of how he wooed my mom.  My mom and dad met in the Navy and I'm not sure if their first ship was the U.S.S. Upshur, but that seemed to be the ship that they talked about the most.  There were a couple of ships, over time, that were named Upshur, but I'm fairly certain that the one that they served on was a Troop ship (T-AP-198).  The crew consisted of a couple of hundred seamen, and 2-3 women that served in the infirmary.  The main mission, at that time, was to transport Troops and the families of military personnel.  The ratio of men to women on board was at least 100 to 1, and larger when you only count the women who were single.  My dad a clod-hopping farmer from the hamlet of Cheshire NY, wooed my mom, a beautiful urbanite from Boston, simply by wearing her down.  The story goes that he would bring her a coffee each day and while she initially insisted that he wasn't her type, he continued to do it, and then moved to escorting her platonically on shore leave.  After many months of this, she finally agreed to their first date, and not
Tattoo on my nephew Derek memorializing my folks
only did that lead to them marrying, she left the big city, moved to the farm, and the woman who thought she might not have kids ever, bore my Dad 12 children.  A movie could easily be made about this courtship, and it would be a blockbuster, so you see, persistence does pay off.

     Church is not just for women - Unless my Dad was traveling, a Sunday did not pass where I did not see him occupying the church pew next to my mother.  Dad wasn't born Catholic, like my mother was, but after he joined the faith, he set a shining example of how a man and a father should practice it. An ABC news poll recently confirmed that many more Catholic women attend church weekly( 49%) than do men (26%), but that is not the lesson that my dad taught me.  He felt, that if you found value in your faith, that you had the duty to participate fully in it.  Dad stood proudly each week in his pew, with his hands clasped in front of him, standing erect and listening intently with his family next to him, looking like descending step stairs.  I try and do the same, because he taught me that church is not just for
My family 1972, I'm in red on the bottom

     Stay connected to your family - Love em or hate em, they are all you get.  Dad's love of his family was inspirational.  While still in his father's home, he disregarded his father's wishes and continued to visit an ex-wife of his father's, who also lived in their hamlet and later on, a sister of his who had fallen out of favor with his dad.  While dad was raising his family, he reserved Sunday afternoons for trips to his sibling's houses and farms.  We'd  find ourselves spending the day on Waneta Lake at one of his sister's cottages (they had places next to each other), Atlanta NY at their camp, outside of Cdga to visit his brother's farm, or sibling's places in Buffalo, Cheshire, or Bristol.  We never went to to the state of Florida without a stop in to see his brother there (Abe, his sole surviving sibling).  My dad, to my knowledge, never missed a family reunion and hosted it far more than his share.  He's chastise us if we suggested we had other things to do, with the rebuke, that
My family a year or so later
you only get one family and it was once a year that they all gathered.  My father hosted New Year's eve parties and the guest list always included his siblings, nieces and nephews.  When he started his heating, plumbing and electric business, he frequently hired his older brother, Charlie, to work with him.  For a while they did some out of town jobs and shared a pop-up camper together for the week, and would come home for the weekends only. I reach out to my siblings regularly, have helped to develop events that bring us together, all because my dad taught me to stay connected.

     There is always room for one more - Dad's generosity was legendary.  Rare was the night that someone didn't join us for dinner, if you were around close to the time, you were invited to break bread with us.  Dad would invite passing veterans
Dad in his element at the head of the table

in for coffee and a hot meal, and at least a dozen people shared our home for varying amounts of time while I was growing up.  Our house-guests were down on their luck contractors, teachers that couldn't find housing, cousins that passed through, and the list goes on from there.  I still meet people today that tell me of how much that my dad's generosity meant to them as it relates to dinners with us, or short respites at our house.  Even on vacation, I remember my dad inviting neighbors in campsites next to us, over to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, over to our campsite.  Truthfully I haven't practiced this lesson as much as my Dad did, but I've never turned a friend or relative away either, because there is always room for one more.

More to come next week...

1 comment:

cdyarger said...

Your father was a wonderful man! He certainly passed on the giving, easygoing nature to you! Great blog - can't wait for the follow-up!