By Kristina Batalden
What I want to first do today is swear. I would love to scream Dammit! Son of a Biscuit! Mala Fala, Dad, why did this happen now? It is much too soon and I had plans for you and I.
But now we all have to move forward- past this moment, past the graveside, past the reception. Because our dad is in a much better place. One where there is sunshine and warmth, one with old friends and new, one without pain and an abundance of fresh air. I imaging my father in a place that is like standing in the middle of pine trees and a light breeze wriggles the branches and touches your face- the sunshine squints through the stands and all there is, is peace.
You know, there is just no way today to make sure that I encapsulate our dad and grandpa’s life without leaving something or someone out. But he would say- “just do your best”.
Today, I want to share with you, some Life Lessons from Lynn
When I was younger, I would often hear my father say to himself in front of the mirror as he combed his hair or shaved: Lynn you handsome devil you, I hope you never die. It was like sweet music- combined with a little whistling and a twinkle in those sky-blue eyes of his- I can almost hear it now… in fact, I have tried to say it to myself in the mirror- it just doesn’t sound right. The lesson: don’t give up on yourself, every dang day YOU are a handsome devil, as long as you believe it.
Once upon a time my dad was a young adult trying to make some money raising lambs. He had all these lambs he was taking care of to sell and make quick cash, but my dad also had a dog. And this dog like to chew on soft little lambs’ ears. Apparently, my dad learned, and I have learned as a result, when little lambs ears are chewed on, they don’t live long and my dad lost every single lamb except one. My dad was devastated- all that work and money down the tube so he gave that last lamb away to a friend, who picked it up in his convertible and my dad’s last vision was that lamb sitting in the back seat with his ears a flapping. The lesson- admit failure when you have failed. The only way you will get better at anything is admitting when you make mistakes.
When my dad had his shop west of town and owned his drilling businesses, he always had a group of young men working for him. He took them under his wing, taught them skills, mentored them, helped them. Once, an employee needed a vehicle to get to work and my mom and dad had an old Jeep, sitting at the shop. My dad gave that man the Jeep and told him to pay him back, X amount… the man took off with the Jeep and was never seen again. Years later, that story stuck with me as I was struggling with charity and the charity of others…I asked him, Dad, didn’t it make you mad that he ran off and never paid you back? Doesn’t it just ‘get’ you when people do that to you? He said, babes, (he always said ‘babes’ or Baybay) you have to keep giving and not let it harden your heart. The lesson- always give to those who don’t have.
My dad loved to tell me how his teachers were so eager for him to leave high school, they put him in a room to take the test, gave him the answers and said, hurry up and pass. With that kind of experience in high school, one would think he would be an education hater. But he wasn’t. My dad was very educated but in a way that no one would think- in fact, he taught me how to read by using the comics- some of my greatest memories. My dad believed in improvements. He believed that you should always be a life-long learner. He expected my sister and me to get good grades, graduate and get a degree. Although the traditional set up of school was not what worked for him, he believed everyone should learn and keep learning.
The lesson: improve yourself. Improve your life. Don’t sit stagnant not making improvements or you will never make a move.
My dad had this dog Jack, a springer spaniel and my dad’s best friend. Jack would loyally sit in my dad’s truck for hours when my dad was frequenting his favorite watering holes. One day at my dad’s shop while the men were moving pipe- a pipe fell right on Jack’s head and popped his eye out. Jack ran around the shop with my dad chasing him and when my dad caught him, he poked the eye back in. Things didn’t look too good for Jack, but my dad had faith. This was a Saturday afternoon and the vet would not be available until Monday so my dad put him on the deck, gave him food and water and shut the door (and curtains). Two days later, Jack jumped up ready to go to work with my dad with a googly eye and a dent in his head.
Lesson: don’t give up on anyone.
In our vehicle, on our family trips -which by the way were only to Yellowstone to the West or Rapid City to the East and anything in between we only listened to a cassette my dad bought on a TV commercial. It included trucker songs, the song “Green Door”, some Johnny Horton songs, to which I know all the words. But one summer I said, “Hey dad, can I listen to this tape?” and I hand him my Madonna tape. The song “Like a Virgin” starts playing and when my dad hears the lyrics, he pops the cassette out of the player, rolls his window down and throws my cassette out the window. The lesson: don’t share your music with your parents.
15-2, 15-4, 15-6, 15-8, and I’ll take a point for your mistake. If you have ever played cribbage with my dad, then you have lost points for your inattentiveness, your lack of math skills, or in my case, I always forget about the point for turning up the Jack. Imagine when you are young and trying to learn a new game, it is super frustrating- just ask my four children that all experienced learning Lynn’s game! I will say one great thing about my dad is he never ever let me win- even when I was a young whipper-snapper- no one is entitled to win, we must all work for it. The lesson: There’s no room for whiners – especially in Lynn’s cribbage.
There is no whining in moving pipe, either, as my oldest will attest to. He took a summer to live with grandpa and work on the ranch moving irrigation pipe. My oldest didn’t really enjoy it but he learned the hard work ethic my father had. The very next year, my next son came out for the summer, but dad had finally decided to ‘retire’ – probably his first try at that word. That summer was an absolute joy. My son learned how to be a retired person. My dad taught him about naps in the daytime, coffee with friends in the morning and shopping for four-wheelers like retired people do. My son didn’t want to come home. My father enjoyed his retirement buddy and the two of them were not ready to part. But all good things must come to an end. The lesson: enjoy your time off- find your time off- relax, have fun and play. There must always be a balance between work and rest.
My dad worked very hard and was so excited when he purchased The Glen Haven ranch with his brother. I remember the phone call while I was at college- he was giddy. There is something magical about the fruits of one’s hard labor, right? He had found his serenity. I want you to know that my father’s wishes, when he owned the ranch, were to be buried on the top of this one hill with accoutrements of his life- whatever those were at the time, a gun, a cribbage board, an elk mount, a drill bit— many things. His hope was that a thousand years from now a future archaeologist would find him and pronounce- oh my gosh, this must be a great king! The lesson: dream big, my friends.
This last story is probably more myth than reality, but the only one in the room that might know the truth is my Uncle John- so you’ll have to ask him. My dad and his older brother Preston were out late at night and wrecked their car- see, they had to share a car and we all can admit it is no fun to share a car with a sibling, but that’s another therapy session. So, they left the wreckage, lit it on fire and hid over a nearby hill and watched it blow up. Needless to say, they didn’t get another car when their dad found out. The lesson: Don’t let your parents find out when you do stupid things.
I could go on and on…there are so many stories. But they all end in a lesson for life. Lessons we all should consider if we want the memory of my father to be everlasting.
This week has been devastating for many of us. But my dad has been training me for this day. Look, this is hard and I don’t know if crying is what I should do or just keep on trucking. So, I am going to take a lesson from my dad. He couldn’t handle my sister crying, so I am NOT going to cry. I am going to think about my dad every day and the amazing gifts of the spirit he has given my sister and myself and our children. Last night, as I felt my lowest, my children finally arrived in town. While I listened to them tell their funny stories of their grandfather and laugh and as we discussed how to go forward to make grandpa proud, I realized, he would have been his proudest watching our crazy in a hotel lobby. I can see those twinkling blue eyes.
As Christians, we believe that all our ties of friendship, affection, good times and bad times, knit us as one wonderful sweater and that sweater does not unravel at death. We are in communion with my dad. We, as Christians, are all part of one body that moves, grows, loves, lives, and dies together. When one is gone, we feel the absence, but know the certain rewards. My dad didn’t ask for anything from anyone. But right now, he might ask for your prayers and I would ask you to take a moment today, or tomorrow…when you see that blue Wyoming sky, think of my dad’s beautiful eyes, do good for others and enjoy this life we have been gifted.