We military folks usually don't get to live close to our extended families. Because we're stationed halfway across the country from my family, I only see my parents once or twice a year. This makes it easy to notice the passage of time; every time I visit, my parents have a couple more wrinkles, a bit more grey hair, and a few more aches and pains.
The last time we visited my father's hometown, my uncle needed help fixing up a sagging retaining wall. As he dug down to fix it, he hit a rock the size of a beach ball. He asked my father to help him get the rock out of the hole. Now, my father's brother is 12 years younger than my father, but my father is in denial about his age, so he thought he could easily help his brother. They struggled and strained, rigged up a pulley system, and huffed and puffed until they moved this boulder. My uncle dusted his hands off and wiped the sweat away. My father, on the other hand, had about done himself in. He went into the house, sat down, and fell right to sleep.
I sat in the living room, watching my father snore and thinking about how, well, how old he is. And how he will continue to get older. I'm sad that I don't get to spend as much time with my parents as I would like, and I've written before about how I get nervous that each time I say good-bye, it could be the last. As I watched my father sleep off his exhaustion, and later in the day when I'd see him wince at his sore muscles from moving that big rock, I just got this sense of my father's mortality. He's getting old, and he won't be here forever. And he oughtn't lift enormous rocks anymore.
Sherman Baldwin's book Growing Up With Harry: Stories of Character also opens with a story about a big rock. Harry Baldwin needed to remove a wellstone from his property, and the author, his son, tells of his father's perseverence in getting that rock out of the ground, even breaking a crowbar clean in two. They kept the stone and it still sits on the property as a symbol of the Baldwin family, "of its steadfastness, its persistence, and its timelessness." (Luckily, Harry didn't wait until he was 60 years old to pull that rock out of the ground, like my father did!)
Growing Up With Harry is a book of short tales about the author's father, tales that always have a moral or a lesson. There were so many times when I could see glimpses of my own father in Harry. My father is still with me, but I know that, like Sherman Baldwin, I will remember these lessons from my father once he's gone, and I hope someday to pass my father's wisdom and lessons down to my own children.
This Thursday night on SpouseBUZZ Talk Radio, we will be speaking with the author, Sherman Baldwin, about his new book, Growing Up With Harry. We will be talking about the lessons he learned from his father and how we try to teach these lessons to our own children. We will talk to him about his own service in the Navy during the Gulf War and his father's service in the Marines during the Korean War. And we will learn a little more about Harry and the life lessons he passed on to his son, and now to the grandson who carries his name.