The last few years of my father’s life were tough. His physical health was in decline, his mental health increasingly faltered. He died in February.
The thing I wish the most is that his mental health would have allowed him to see that everything turned out great with me…his son. That his fatherly efforts paid off in a bunch of different ways. That his legacy is thriving.
He loved this land. He’d traveled all around the United States and was convinced Lincoln County and Lake Roosevelt held the most beautiful land to be found anywhere.
Dad and I shared a love of Eastern Washington and how he raised me set the course for that love from an early age.
When I was a kid, and long before all the people moved into Seven Bays, Dad let me run around the “bay” below our cabin and the fields surrounding Seven Bays for many unsupervised hours. The main instructions were to be home in time for dinner, don’t dive headfirst into the water, and don’t reach under logs. “Watch out for snakes!”
Being able to entertain myself was probably one of the greatest gifts I received as a youngster. I was fascinated by the natural world and I got to be a part of nature as I played, using my young body to explore every little thing that crossed my path. The outdoor time allowed me to put nature in context and to learn the way of things. I got to use my body and feel trust in my environment.
All the free time indelibly wove Eastern Washington into the fibre of my being. I was glad to live for a time in Seattle. However, I never felt more relaxed, more at home, than when I was in Eastern Washington with the hot sun blistering my “ginger” skin, with dust and weeds clinging to my socks. I think my Dad would love to know that he successfully caused Eastern Washington to be the place that I felt most at home.
While we took lots of road trips when I was a youngster, I probably learned the most from being with Dad while he was on his weekend sales calls. We’d start the day with a visit to the refrigeration buildings at Carnation Dairies in Spokane. These were huge rooms filled with dairy products. I suppose I could have broken a leg, but he’d let me ride around between crates of milk on the big conveyor chains that snaked throughout the building. It was a big adventure, while knowing I was safely ensconced in my Dad’s world.
It was visiting the people Dad did business with that taught me lifelong life skills. Namely, the gift of gab. Dad was one of those that never knew a stranger and always had something to say to whomever happened to be there at the moment. I saw how adults would playfully and respectfully interact. When the time for “business” came, that business was conducted between people who knew, liked and trusted each other. Also, the “business” part of a conversation was generally a small fraction of the conversation, sometimes just a moment. It was all the other relating that set the stage for a solid transaction to occur. It was highly instructional to see some of these professional relationships represented genuine friendships. Of course, being a little kid I was often bored…why does Dad have to talk so much? Knowing what I know now, these times with Dad had a huge impact on me and my ability to socialize and get things done with people.
There’s a lot more I could discuss and dissect in terms of the impact Dad had on my life. One of the areas that had the biggest impact was in the area of creativity. Dad was a poet. Or as he preferred to put it, a pilot and a poet. He was a prolific poet, filling many binders and the walls of his home on the airstrip at Seven Bays with his crafted words. He had poet penpals around the world, gave talks on poetry…he was all in on the poetry. While I’m no poet, our creative endeavors resonated. What I’m most grateful for is the willingness to create, to express, to make something of nothing, and then building on that something until it’s beautiful. Dad was always supportive of my creative efforts and gave himself permission to express deep feelings through poetry. How much more beautiful would our world be, were we all encouraged to creatively explore and express the things we find meaningful?
Unfortunately, age related mental illness clouded his vision towards the end of his life. Now that he’s gone I’m left to live the best Eastern Washington life possible and hope that he’s looking down to see his legacy unfold and is happy with what he did with his life. I know I am.
“Silent Wings” by Wil Mohney
At times I’ve flown the windswept heights
where few men go on silent wings.
I’ve looped and rolled and joyfully done
so many things that most men never dream of.
I’ve tried the endless miles of blue to
touch the burning sun and known so well
what I can’t do on silent wings, before
A quiet voice says, “Not yet! Not yet!”
To trace the path where eagles go
I’ve soared and swung midst clouds
above with the whole world spread
so far below.
I’ve reached heaven on the standing crest
and sometimes cursed the elusive lift.
But knew inside I’d had the best.
Then plunged earthward in a silent dive
and pulled out in time
To rejoice that I’m