When I wanted to start playing football there was one big issue. My home town of Eden, WI; did not have a team and even know a coach had invited me to play on a team in Fond du Lac, WI. I still had the issue of, how to I get there every day for practice.
By this time my mom and dad were divorced, Dad was running his business and mom was working full time too.
However, Grandma Feyen was coming to clean our house once a week and after listening to me complain about not being able to play because I couldn’t get to practice she said, “Ray will take care of it.”
Ray Feyen, was my Grandpa Feyen and for my whole first year of football he drove the 10 miles from Fond du Lac to pick me up and drive me the 10 miles back to Fond du Lac and some days when dad could not make it from work to pick me up he would make the round trip again.
We spent about 3 months doing that trip together and honestly, I don’t remember a single conversation. I just remember how he listened to talk radio every day and how annoying I thought it was. I’m guessing that is what you will think some day about my talk radio habit.
And even though I lived with Grandma and Grandpa Feyen for a few years later in life, I can honestly only remember two things that came out of Grandpa Feyen’s mouth. One, the fact that he used to call us grandkids, snicklefritzes and the infamous, “Can I get my drink yet?,” when he knew family was coming to visit. Grandma only let him drink when people were visiting in the later years.
I think that it is kind of strange that I remember how much Grandpa B told me, possibly because of the number of times he repeated the same story, but almost nothing about what Grandpa Feyen said.
Even though I don’t remember what he said, I remember several things that he taught me.
I remember being at the farm in the morning and watching him walk to to the barn to start the day. I remember his striped overalls and hankerchief. I remember not remembering him ever complaining or looking like he didn’t want to do it. My memory may be different from others on that last statement but I really think it had an effect on my work ethic.
Although I may complain more than I remember Grandpa complaining, I know that I am responsible to get my work done.
I also remember how Grandpa realized that our regular trips to the Golden Goat to recylce cans were loosing us money and that we should be taking our cans to the recycling center where they paid more per pound of cans. The only difference is that the cans taken to the recycling center had to be crushed.
He would take our full bags of uncrushed cans from our house in Eden to the farm house and he would crush the cans one by one with a sledge hammer on his work bench. I swear that each can was crushed to the exact same measurement.
I learned two things from this. The first is the value of money, your mother may argue that that value alludes me at times, but the fact that Grandpa was willing to invest the time to help us make a few extra dollars meant a lot. The second is no matter what you are doing that you should take pride in it, even if it means a perfect crush on a can that is bound for a recycling center.
That wasn’t the last lesson I learned from Grandpa around the cans. When we got to the recycling center I realized the bags were put on a scale, weighed and then we threw them into a bin. The more the bag weighed the more money we made and no one really inspected the bags so why not add some weight to the bags and bingo, more money.
I decided that I was going to add sand to the bags, and then the first bag I added the sand to was gone from Grandpa’s garage with all the other bags the next morning because Grandpa decided to take the cans in for us.
When he got back all I remember is him carrying one bag out of the back of the car, dropping it in the garage, telling us to clean out the sand and that was it. He didn’t get mad at us and never asked why or how it got there.
Then at lunch that day he pointed out the milkhose hanging in the mudroom like the one that he used to smack the cows with to get them to do what he wanted them to do. I don’t remember what he said as much as I knew that from that point forward I would never put sand in our aluminum cans ever again and that I never wanted to find out how a cow felt when it gets hit by that hose.
The lesson; if you make a mistake you are going to fix it yourself and there are consequences for big mistakes. Not always a milkhose to the backside, but consequences just the same.
The final lesson I learned from Grandpa was the hardest lesson. Grandma and Grandpa left their farm to move into the city when they were in relatively good health, but what I percieved once they moved was that Grandpa had lost a big part of who he was. I saw him try to find things to keep himself busy, but he never was quite the same or quite as happy as I remembered him being on the farm.
Grandpa seemed to loose a little bit more of himself every day and I remember watching him struggle to get the bread he always dunked into his coffee into his mouth before it fell apart. I saw him fail more times than I would like to remember.
I don’t know if Grandpa would have lived longer or had more quality of life if they never left the farm, but I do think he would have been happier. He never said that to me, at least that I can remember, but that is what I think.
What I do know is that I will always seek to ensure my life is full and I will hold on tight to those things that keep me happy.
I will also endeavor to lead as much by example as well as my Grandpa Feyen did.