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December 30, 2010, First United Methodist Church, Deming, NM
Thanks to all the wonderful people in Deming that welcomed us with open arms and have been so gracious and caring. I can see why my parents made the decision to call this their home.
Numbered in the things my father left behind in his legacy is all of us—his children. (youngest to oldest) Jennifer, Philip, Cynthia, Chris, Todd and Scott (me). We’ve all turned out to be reasonably decent human beings and something that, I hope our folks are proud of.
When I was asked to speak at my dad’s service (actually “elected” by my siblings), I really had to stop and think hard about who I am and how I turned out the way I have. As I thought trough the things I believe in and hold dear, I started to draw a picture of certain things—I guess core values—that have been largely responsible for defining the framework of my life and for shaping who I am today.
My dad and I didn’t always see exactly eye to eye. In fact we were usually pretty drastically far from it. But when we couldn’t agree on politics or religion or television or even the weather, we could always find common ground in music.
From an early age, my father instilled a love of music in all of us. This creative spirit manifested itself in some way with each of us. My sister Cynthia paints, Chris and Todd are musicians themselves, both Cynthia and Jennifer have a wonderful eye for detail and design, while my brother Philip has his own unique talents (more about that below).
I always thought it would’ve been great to have been my dad’s brother instead of his son. To travel around on a Greyhound bus, playing big ballrooms in a Big Band back in the heyday of the Big Band era. We never heard a lot about it, but occasionally my father would talk about “the good-ole days” with a glimmer of past glory in his eyes.
Through music, my father taught me the discipline of practice and the idea that anything worth getting good at was worth putting effort into. Practice wasn’t a “when you felt like it” kind of thing, it was once a day occurrence. Practice was a form of work and work always had a payoff. No work; no payoff.
We’ve also all ended up with a really strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. And this was something that my father never taught me directly; I learned it through watching the way my mom and dad lived their lives and took care of us. Year after year I watched them scrape together every red cent they could just to keep 6 kids in food, clothes, a warm house and a yearly vacation to some dangerous mountain road somewhere.
My dad complained about a lot of things; the government, rich people, the weather. But I never once heard him complain about his responsibilities or what he had to do to fulfill them. As far as I could see, no job was ever beneath my parents or too demeaning when it came to their family. They just plain did what was required and got it done.
For anyone that ever met my dad, it didn’t take long to figure out that he could pinch the life out of penny more than about anyone I’d ever known. We grew up with dad on constant thermostat watch. And heaven help you if you left a room without turning the lights off. We were all shocked in the 70’s when the “Energy Crisis” hit and other people started turning the lights out when they left a room (really?). My dad was the original recycler—fixing, building and repairing almost anything just to eke out another ounce of life from some crooked chair or wobbly table.
For a little kid, it was a big adventure going to the Dairy outlet store to buy milk—nearly straight from the cows themselves—6 gallons at a time. We bought a boat-load (actually a Volkswagen bus-load) of bread from the Bakery outlet store (remember Wonder Bread and Twinkies?), filling up a 6 foot chest freezer in the process.
Each school year, clothes started out under the flashing blue light and (regardless of fit or fashion) ended up on me. Next year Todd was in those pants (maybe fitting a little better this time around) and 10 years later by the time Jennifer was wearing them they were actually back in style; tattered patches and all. In fact, that’s when the designer label stuff started washing jeans with rocks just to give them that old and used look!
This one has recked me to this day! Just ask my wife. If there’s any kind of work to be done, I can’t relax until it’s out of the way. It bugs me. Growing up, there was a hard and fast rule: no negotiation: Finish your homework first, then—and only then—could you go out and play.
I remember my brother and I formulating beautifully articulate arguments about how there was only a finite amount of daylight hours and it made more sense to time-shift our play time into those hours and move the homework into the dark and gloomy twilight hours. It never worked (ever that I can recall). My father would listen intently to our long-winded oration before casually saying, “No.”
Dry and sometimes hard to read, my dad was nothing if not a nut. For the most part, growing up we were either already numb to it or maybe dad just reserved his “A” material for away from home. Either way, it always surprised me when my friends would say, “Was that your dad? Man he’s sooo funny!”
Although it wasn’t apparent then, it is apparent today when we all get in the same room together. We all got the funny gene; some more than others. I think my brother Philip is one of the funniest people alive. He can tell literally any story and make it funny. Delay in the airport: no problem. His kids breaking something or mouthing off: funny.
Our family reunions are always a ball. Any time we all get together, I end up with a stomach ache and a sore face from laughing so much. We’ve all been blessed with an amazing ability to look at things a particular way and find the absurdity or ridiculous truth in it. What a great gift.
It’s hard to distill a lifetime down into a handful of bullet points, but these are the things that make up who I am and how I deal with the world. And they’re all things that I got from the way I was raised. For that I thank my mom and my dad.
- Scott Nason