Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lessons from a Landmark

If this posting seems to be more personal reflection than sharing information about this site's theme, please forgive me.

For the first twenty or thirty years of my life, it seemed as if my name was not really "Mike" or Michael. Instead, most of the people in the small town where I was born and raised called me "Gene's boy." You see, while my hometown of Drayton, North Dakota was one of those places where everbody knows everybody... there were just too many young Anderson's in the area for people to keep them all straight. Some were cousins, and some were totally unrelated. So when you told someone that your name was Mike Anderson, they just looked at you curiously, often tilting their head in uncertainty... as if the name alone did not identify who you were, in their mind.

Then, I would follow-up by saying, "I'm Gene's boy." They'd throw their head back and nod with clarity: "Ohhhh... you're Gene's boy!" Dad was a rural letter carrier, in a community that was mostly rural, so many people depended on him and almost everyone in town knew him. (Most would tell you they knew him well.)

Very early on the morning of Saturday, August 23rd, my Dad passed away at Mayo Clinic's St. Mary's Hospital. He had fought hard for three months, against a variety of complications from his surgery for lung cancer.

Julie and I tried our best to provide support to Mom and Dad as the challenges of this summer unfolded. Our trips to Rochester were not entirely unselfish; we needed this time with my parents. Our visits were rewarded by gaining a deeper realization of Dad's bravery, his love of life, his devotion to my Mother, and his willingness to help others. From my Mom, we received a deeper understanding of the meaning... behind words like care, commitment, and compassion.

I've received many gifts from my Mother, but it was Dad who gave me a love of the water. After his time in the Navy (U.S. 7th Fleet, 1951-1955), Dad brought home his love of the sea. His home ports were San Diego and Alameda... so he spent a lot of time on the California coast. While we only made one family trip to the Pacific during my youth, we often spent our family vacations at Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota, and a couple of trips to Lake Superior; the closest things we had to a large body of water, living in North Dakota.

As I've mentioned in previous postings, some of the plans we had for river restoration work this summer were necessarily canceled. I would not change a thing; I am so glad that we used every opportunity to be with my parents. The rivers will be here next summer, and so will their call for our help.

After having helped bring Dad home to Drayton one final time, Julie and I are at our home in the Twin Cities tonight. And having a few moments to myself this evening, I felt compelled to sit down and get this first posting under my belt, after what has been a very trying summer and a terribly difficult week. Dad was proud of our work on this project. (As luck would have it, Dad and Mom were at our home back in May--on their way to Mayo Clinic--the day that a reporter from KARE 11 showed up at our house to do a story about our on our river restoration efforts. I was so glad he could see the project coming into its' own.)

When we started this site, I promised to share what I had learned about rivers and restoration. Tonight, I have little new knowledge to report about rivers. But I think this summer has given me a much deeper understanding of the term, "restoration." And maybe some lessons about navigation, as I now go forward:

  • Sometimes, it takes a long, long time before the impact of your efforts are realized. But they will be realized, and appreciated, perhaps to an extent far greater than you ever hoped or imagined.
  • Sometimes, you don't realize just how many people are learning from you... just by watching how you behave and how you treat people. Always behave as if people are watching.
  • Just as the most important thing about navigation is knowing where you stand at this moment... the most important step in becoming who you want to be is understanding who you are right now.
Thanks for a lifetime of lessons, Dad.


Gene's Boy

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