He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt. 5
The poem entitled If, written by Rudyard Kipling, helps us to see why Frank was often called a “real man” by those who knew him. Not only was he tough, he was wise.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master,”
“If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Mr. Kipling no doubt penned these words after meeting someone like Frank.
I miss your wisdom, Frank, and your comforting words telling me whether whatever was bothering me was worth my time or not.
I miss the hugs that said, “You are okay. Don’t let a problem define you.” (So I wouldn’t. You taught me to learn from the problem, and I did. Every time.)
I miss the heart that soaked up my tears and replaced my fears with love.
I miss you, Frank.
We all do…
He Taught Us a Thing or Two
Part 4 : About Life.
Frank taught us that a key component of a quality life is respect.
He defined respect as “an understanding that someone or something has certain attributes and should be treated in an appropriate way.” This was true for anything from poisonous snakes to sweet gray-haired old ladies.
He also felt that a person should show some respect for themselves by speaking and acting appropriately. When he opened doors for ladies, or retrieved things from high shelves in Walmart for a short person (he was tall), he was just being himself. He had enough respect for himself and those around him to conduct himself well in public.
One thing that upset Frank was disrespectful children. He wondered why parents would neglect to teach their children at least to honor the sacred and important things. Not just God and the church, but gray-haired folks, law enforcement, and institutions like schools and courtrooms. He held in high esteem those parents who taught their children respect, and had a soft spot in his heart for children who learned and lived it. He would do anything for them.
He was never fake. If he didn’t like you, he respected you enough that he wouldn’t act like he liked you. He was cordial to everyone, but only engaged in conversations with people he liked. There were only certain people in his “inner circle” that he would go so far as to laugh and joke with. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the inner circle folks were the ones who respected him the most and showed it.
There is no question that Frank deserved and received respect. He also gave it. He held in high regard those persons and concepts everyone should, like God, and family, and country, but he also respected fellow men and women, particularly those in the military. Anytime he had an opportunity, he paid for their dinner, and it didn’t matter how many were in the party.
We were having lunch with our son and his wife one afternoon at a Mexican restaurant. Frank noticed a table of ten or so folks, one of whom was in military attire. We were seated near them, so their conversation somewhat wafted our way. We understood that this soldier was about to be deployed to a war zone, and the family was enjoying this time with him before he was to leave the next day.
As Frank paid our lunch bill, he also picked up the tab on theirs. He tried to get out of the restaurant without them knowing, but as he was finishing up, the soldier asked for the bill for their table. The cashier shook his head and then pointed to Frank.
The soldier quickly came over to thank him saying, “Sir, that was a large ticket. A lot of food. Thank you.”
Frank choked up and barely could get out the words, “No. Thank you… for your service.” The soldier nodded, shook Frank’s hand and let us leave. Mutual respect.
Frank taught us that true respect is shown, not just spoken.
Thank you, Frank, for the respect you gave me and others,
and my respect for you will go on forever.
Part 3 : About Romance
Frank was a practical romantic. He had this idea that people should make sure their spouses know they are loved. He thought in order to do that one has to discover what is important to the person and do that for them.
Because I agreed with him and since I knew culinary variety was one thing important to him, I prepared meals accordingly. Being the Daniel Boone type of guy, he loved wild game. He taught me how to cook it correctly. With wild turkey, he always wanted me to “fry the breast and stew the rest.” Venison would be packaged to be fried, stewed, or ground. Frank enjoyed stuff peppers, especially with ground venison.
Leftovers brought a frown to his face, unless I could change it up a bit. I can be creative. Cold fried venison would turn into smother-fried venison over rice. He also loved spicy food and added hot sauce to almost any dish. (I think his throat was seared because he could drink hot sauce right out of the bottle.) When I made chili, his was cooked in a separate pot because he was the only one who could eat it. Yes, food was important to him and so I romanced him that way.
Frank knew that words are important to me, so instead of just sending roses or a bouquet of other beautiful flowers, he found a poem on the Internet that spoke his heart, snapped a photo of it and sent it to the florist to transcribe onto the card that went with the flowers. ( Our florist is wonderful.) He did this several times a year.
The flowers were great, but the poem… Always beautiful because I knew he really meant what it said. I kept the little cards with the poems in my purse so that if I was having a rough day I could take one out, read it, and know that no matter what, I was loved. That kind of put things in perspective.
I’ve heard stories of young men Frank worked around receiving these lessons on romance and actually using it in their own marriage, with great results. One might comment about forgetting her birthday or their anniversary, and Frank would teach him that that was close to being a cardinal sin. He even taught him to find out what her favorite flower was and send her a bouquet of those. With a poem, of course.
The poem Frank sent with the roses on our anniversary is one of my favorites:
Today we celebrate
The joining of our hearts.
We were meant for each other
Right from the start.
We were destined to be together
And never to part.
You are my friend, my lover,
And the keeper of my heart.
The song “Waitin’ on a Woman” by Brad Paisley and Andy Griffith was special to us. (It is more true about us than I’d like to admit.) When we saw the video on TV, he told me that one day he’d find that white bench. I thought he was just being his usual romantic self, so I kissed his face and told him if that did happen he could know one thing for sure, I’d be along sometime. He wouldn’t wait in vain.
I am so looking forward to spending eternity with you, Frank.
You are my friend, my lover, and the keeper of my heart.
Part 2 : Adventure
Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. (Another definition: daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm.)
Frank lived for adventure and every day was just that if you were with him. If you went riding in the woods with him, you’d better take food and water because you never knew how long you would be gone or what unusual or exciting activity you would experience.
Sometimes it was bland stuff like photographing some animal or insect in the wild, or getting stuck in a bog he tried to navigate with his four- wheel-drive truck.
Other times it was down right nail-biting.
One time we went for a ride in the woods on a weekend afternoon. He was home on R&R from his job in Saudi Arabia and wanted to see some Florida greenery. We had our oldest daughter with us. She was four years old at the time, and I was expecting our son.
As usual, during our ride we talked about animal habitats and behavior patterns. I learned a lot. He liked catching the animals with his bare hands and looking them over before he let them go. If a sow pig crossed the road with her babies, he’d stop, catch one, scratch its little belly, and let us pet it before sending it back to its mama.
On this particular trip, though I was not aware of it until after the fact, he was looking for a particular animal. A friend of his had been having trouble with thieves stealing tools out of the back of his truck. He asked Frank for advice on an anti-theft device. Frank had the perfect solution and it slithered into the middle of the road that day right in front of our truck.
Frank stopped, got out, and walked circles around the 5 foot diamondback rattler. He broke a piece from a large dead limb nearby and used it to help him catch her. ( I am not sure how he knew it was a female, but he said, “she.”)
Once he caught her, one hand gripped just behind her head and the other supporting her large body, he told me to bring him the empty feed sack from the back of the truck. As I said before, I was expecting and our young daughter was in the seat with me. So I slid off the truck seat, shut the truck door behind me securely to keep her inside, got the feed sack, and threw it toward him. I didn’t want to be within twenty feet of that thing.
Frank looked at me oddly, as if to say “Why’d you do that?” He then held the snake toward me and said, “If I let her go now, she will bite me. Pick up the sack, hold it open, and I will put her in it. When I pull my hands out, close the sack.” He never broke a sweat, and spoke with confidence. His whole demeanor said,”I’m in control here.”
I did as instructed, and he took the bagged snake from me. Then I began to breathe again. I got back in the truck and my whole body turned to jelly. When he got in the truck, I told him the next time he did that, she could just bite him. He’d better never put me in that position again!
He laughed and said I wasn’t adventurous enough.
I believe being married to him proved I was adventurous enough.
I knew that he knew a whole lot more than I did about animal behavior and … I learned to trust him. He got bit a few times by different types of animals, but nothing dangerous or poisonous. He gave respect when it was due.
He took the snake to his friend, who used it as a theft deterrent. I never heard if the thief lived.
I’m concerned life may be dull now.
How do I live, really live …
without you, Frank?