One of my nephews has always had an outgoing, easy-to-talk-to way about him. When he was six or so he chased down the garbage truck and said something to the effect of "Hey fellas! I was supposed to take out the trash this morning but I forgot. You've already gone past our house but I was wondering if you couldn't run back by and pick it up before my Mom finds out I forgot." And danged if they didn't do it for him.
My brother-in-law and I were discussing this nephew's gift the other day after nephew had called and told us that a friend of a friend of his knew of a rifle for sale that we might be interested in. He was out in East Texas, deer and hog hunting. He was planning to stop in and visit with an older couple that lived out near Mineola. He knew them because they were friends with my in-laws, his grandparents. How many twenty-three year old men do that? Just stop in and visit or call up an elderly couple to check on them?
I think he's on to something. As I think back there have been an awful lot of old men that have made an impression on me and provided great examples on how to act like an upright, honest man. Not that all the lessons took, but I do remember them. I know I've written a lot about my Dad here, we all learn a lot from our fathers, but I'm talking about just regular old men, guys my nephew might pick up the phone to check on.
When I was in high school I worked at Pampa Hardware Company on Cuyler Street in downtown Pampa. The Lively family owned it. Travis Lively Sr. had started the business with a man named Thompson a long time ago, like maybe the 1920's, and when I worked there, in the late 1970's, his son, Travis Jr., was running it. Travis Sr. was pretty old by then, and pretty scary ... he looked like the classic mean old man who lived down the street ... until you got to know him.
Travis Sr. taught me a lot of things, like the importance of saving something out of every paycheck. Pampa Hardware was my first "real" job with a paycheck. I was also impressed at how dedicated he was to his church, the First Methodist Church in Pampa. He brought his Bible to work and studied it regularly. He was always extremely considerate of his wife and all the other ladies around the store. His attention to detail was pretty amazing, as well as his consistently high standards. He would pause before answering a question, as if to let you know that he put some effort into it. He was an old man, and didn't move very quickly but he always carried himself like a gentlemen.
Of course there are plenty of old men in the family that were great examples. Shorty Barnett, my wife's grandfather, was an old guy with lots of life and a hard working, simple ethic about him that I always admired. My father-in-law, Darvis, has always been a dependable and happy and caring man. My uncle Ivan, who was always kind-hearted to a bunch of heathen kids and loved to joke and horse around with us, showed me it was okay to act like a kid even when you're old. I remember Mom referring to Dad as "the Old Man" a lot, but I never took it to be derogatory.
When I stop to think about it, I could probably fill up this blog with the bits and pieces I've learned from men who some would consider past their prime. There was Fryson, one of our neighbors growing up, who we could always count on for a piece of 2 x 4 for a project or a 25 cent chore if we wanted to get a soda. There was Othel, who was my supervisor when I worked in the oil patch during college summers, who demonstrated that slow and steady can actually win a race. There was the man who was at the nursing home, visiting his wife, every time I was there to visit my Dad. He was there every time because he was there every day. There was Mr. Howard, who worked in a fast food kitchen with me many Friday and Saturday nights during my college years. He was hard-headed and gruff and energetic and dependable and consistent. There was the farmer who pulled my truck out of a ditch with his tractor while patiently explaining the dangers of soft shoulders, both kinds. There was the old cowboy who told me I shouldn't complain about the smell of manure because "for some of us, it smells like grocery money."
Anyway, I think the nephew is on to something. I think we could all get some benefit from visiting with an old man from time to time. I hope, if you're a young man you've got plenty of old men around to learn from. I hope, if you're a middle aged man that you've got a solid grasp of the legacy you need to build and the standards you need to set. And I hope, if you're an old man, that you know we appreciate you.
Hey, wait a minute! Nephew called me for no good reason, just to check up. Surely he doesn't think I'm an old man already!
at 6:31 PM