I once wrote a sappy coming-of-age essay entitled "Lake of Love", which was published nationally April 18, 2010. For the curious, it’s available on my author’s page(s). The article described, among other things, my first kiss—and what a breathtaking moment it was! Hoo-hah! In some ways, an event like that could be considered a restart of one’s life—certainly the end of childhood; and the beginning of a new exciting (we think) chapter. Why exciting? Well, we humans are an optimistic lot. As teenagers we tend to think nothing but good lies ahead: high school sports, love affairs, college degrees, first job, marriage, children, career, travel, etc. We ignore the probability of war, disease, kidnappings, plane crashes, divorce, and other negative events that could impact our lives. Fortunately, my life has taken the former route—a lot of people have been good to me. That said, this text is about reflection as I near the finish of a journey; the end of the road. To those having religious belief, “the end” is also good news. However, to be truthful with you—as I always am—I’m not sure. |
My family is from Switzerland. Rumor has it they were bamboozled by a European huckster using the old streets-are-paved-with-gold schtick, and made the move to America only to be disappointed by reality. But being of hardy homesteading stock, they decided to make the best of it. Besides, the Atlantic crossing wasn’t all that pleasant, and a return transoceanic voyage was out of the question. Before leaving, they liquidated everything—there was no going back.
Our family name is MAIJER, which became MAYER, which became MYERS. Looking in the Family Bible, I noticed a forefather’s name written as Mayer, and his children beneath him, Myers. I figured out the first name change since a script “ij” looks like a “y” with two dots over it, but the last change is puzzling. I once asked my Dad and uncles, “How come?”
Their answer was a collective and uninterested shrug. Me? I would have been curious about that. I still am. Unfortunately, the answer resides somewhere in Ohio six feet under.
Speaking of dirt sandwiches, my grandfather got his exactly a week after his birthday. He died January 9, 1931 at 41 years of age. He sustained an abdominal rupture trying to lift something, and sepsis stepped to the plate and killed him. Not even the Mayo Clinic could save his life. Penicillin would have done the trick, but wasn’t available until around 1946. I make mention because that particular medication saved my life on two occasions. Turns out my grandfather and I have a lot in common. Mainly, our names are exactly the same, Eugene Lewis Myers. I’ve had a lifetime of looking at a gravestone with my name on it. The constant reminder of an upcoming and unavoidable biological event is, well, a bit unnerving. See, originally my plan was to live forever—so far, so good. (For actuarial table fans, that’s a psychological process called denial.)
Grandfather was an enterprising fellow. I’ve always attempted to follow his lead, but so far have fallen short. During his relatively short life, he managed to establish a profitable farm to raise Capon roosters. Those chickens are huge—almost the size of a turkey—and were a favorite item for roasting. In addition, there were three restaurants in the small town where he resided. He owned one, and had fifty-percent of the other two. What would you like to bet that’s where a number of the Capon roosters ended up? In late twentieth century we called that business maneuver by a fancy name: vertical integration. He also sired four children—three boys and a girl. The eldest was my father who was only 14-years-old when his father passed. Not only did I never know my grandfather, but other than what I’ve written above, I know very little about him.
Still, I have this absurd instinct that I am completing his short life. As I mentioned, the drug that was denied him, extended my life twice—before the age of 20. The first was from blood poisoning, and the second from peritonitis (or septicemia) from a burst appendix. OMG, sepsis was on deck waiting to claim me! Talk about timing. Born a generation earlier, and I’ve have been history. Lack of penicillin resulted in death for ELM No. 1, and the presence of penicillin resulted in life for ELM No. 2. Finally, I was born on his wife’s—my grandmother’s—birthday! That’s a coincidental paradox, don’t you think? Barring an unforeseen accident or disease, I am a lock to double his lifespan. But with all the symmetry, coupled with the geometry of the universe, I can’t help but wonder if a week after my birthday the year I double my grandfather’s life span is meaningful for me. We’ll see—
So, what did he leave unfinished, that I’m supposed to complete?
I suppose we all search for meaning in life, especially our own. Truth to tell, I haven’t done much except maintain a healthy life style, participate in all kinds of crazy escapades (refer to my author’s page), and seek added value from all aspects of existence. Oh, it’s been a fun ride so far, and I’m hardly finished in my never-ending search for joy. But lately I’ve began to wonder if, other than being a hedonist, if I’m not supposed to pursue something my grandfather left undone—whatever that is. It dawned on me a few days ago that marrying Kay and having two children are the highlights and most important events of my life. Everything else is rubbish in comparison. What more is there to do?
Acknowledging the meaning of family in my life gave me a clue. I finally deduced what my grandfather didn’t do was hang around to be a father and a husband—or a grandfather. He left his family well off, even at the onset of the Great Depression, but deprived them of his presence. I must in truth admit that although I’ve been around for wife and kids; it’s been in a selfish manner often putting my pleasures, career, and desires ahead of them. There were years when I was gone seven of 12 months. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure it out, but (believe me) as time grows short, I know (and acknowledge) the error of my ways.
Bottom line: though I’ve outlived my grandfather by (almost) a factor of two, in many ways I’ve been as absent as he was. Therefore, I have pledged to finish this ride for both of us by (finally) putting those who love me most in first place. Can it be that simple? Wish me luck.
Copyright 2018 by Gene Myers, willing worker and slow leaner.
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