Wednesday, July 27, 2005

In memory of E.B. Fenner

Life Lessons my Poppa taught me:

1. He once asked me to tell him what "Mad Dog" was backwards. I was so proud and loud when I figured it out. Mimi tossed me out of the cottage in the blink of an eye for the blasphemy.

Lesson: Never blindly answer other people's questions without thinking about it first. The answer reflects on you not the person who asked the question.

2. You only get one kick at the can of life. Make sure you drink all the vodka you need and smoke all the cigarettes you want. When those two vices get in the way of experiencing life - Quit them without question. He travelled the entire world and got to enjoy vodka in all of the right places because he quit enjoying cigarettes in chain formation the second his doctor told him to.

Lesson: Don't let habit get in the way of living.

3. Poppa surveyed the Trans Canada Highway through Northern Ontario. He was the best hobby fisherman I've ever met. When you are in the bush for months on end you need to enjoy what the bush has to offer.

Lesson: Take what you can from where you are and live it fully.

4. Poppa would get woken up by tequila drunk grand-teenagers skinny dipping on the dock and got so blind angry that you were afraid to leave your cottage for the tongue lashing the next day. Use democracy and elect an ambassador to apologize. He could always tell when we'd scapegoated someone and that was worse. Once an ambassador was elected there was no need to rain hell fire on all members of the offending team.

Lesson: Always apologize when your behaviour is disrespectful and don't waste your breath if you're not sincere - that insults everyone more and shows no self respect.

5. Poppa built gardens all around our cottage properties and when the magic of creation was done he found magic in the day to day maintenance of the flowers and vegetables that he grew.

Lesson: Take care of your living projects and they will give you everything in return.


6. Don't define yourself by your paid work. Find fulfillment in as many aspects of life as possible. When Poppa retired from working for Trans-Canada he did the following:

  • built his retirement home on Six Mile Lake
  • learned how to design gardens on the Cambrian Shield. Not an easy task. One of the last things my Poppa told me was that he spread 100 lbs of manure on those gardens over the course of the summer. Holy Shit...
  • learned how to paint it
  • wrote and illustrated books for all of his grandchildren when they were born. Even though we got them when we were less than 3 years old they came to define some specific aspect of ourselves.
  • travelled the world with his wife of 67 years.
  • built and left a life that we could all use as foundations for our own lives

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