Guy and Judy, Lon and Mara

Mara, Jim and Lon. c. 1992

Mara, Jim and Lon. c. 1992

Recently we celebrated one of my medical challenges at dinner with friends. They asked me to propose a toast. After a few minutes I offered the following:

I’m thankful for being alive. It’s not often that I am able to express my gratitude to the people around me. Saying “Thank you” and “I love you” has always been difficult for me. Thank you for being here. I love you.

As difficult as it is to offer love or thankfulness, it’s at least as hard for me to be on the receiving end of those sentiments. Jim didn’t hesitate to express his feelings, nor does my wife Judy. Whenever they start down this path, I dig my toe into the sand, with that “Aw, shucks” feeling. I’d rather not be there.

That feeling hit hard as I discovered this letter in the stack from Jim. I almost didn’t include it for publication, because it’s so “embarrassing.” Grace raised me to do the right thing, but she didn’t give me the talent to accept the kudos when things went right. As I age I realize that expressing thanks and love is a two-way street. Rejecting an expression of love is a rejection of the other. Turning away thanks turns away a fellow human. To be a friend means both giving and receiving emotion, even the best kinds of emotion.

I’ll never be as good as Jim in expressing my thanks or love. He set the bar pretty high and I’m still learning. Earlier this month I put that learning to the test. One of my friends was planning an incredibly generous gift for me. I rehearsed for hours, knowing I had to thank him. When the moment came my statement was a simple “Thank you. I appreciate this.” I watched as if looking into a mirror as he stumbled around trying to accept the gratitude. Now I need to work on how to coach him to accept a thank you, just like Jim coached me.

Thank you for your patience as I learn this skill.

Jim writes:

Usually one looks to an older person for inspiration and example … but in this case Guy was always the inspiration for me … I was an older person looking up to a much younger one … as a teenager he exhibited a unique quality … that of a serious goal oriented person. At fifteen he knew what career he wanted to pursue … and he set his mind to it … graduated high school … on to four years of college plus an additional year of study for a Masters Degree … then on to IBM where he has built  his career for some nineteen years … what is unique about this?

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Jim’s Letters – Short Stories of a Good Life

Have you ever summed up your life in six words? Try it sometime, you might be surprised. My story:

“Serendipity is my friend, yet again.”

Was it pure chance that led me to Cal’s Office Supply that day when I needed some paper for a project? Some might say it was the hand of God leading me to the right place, I prefer to think of Serendipity guiding me. I could have gone to the other office supply store in town, but I didn’t.

Jim could have been on the road that day. He wasn’t.

Jim at sea during WWII

Jim at sea during WWII

I just walked into the store to ask for some paper for a kids newspaper. By the end of that year I had a “substitute” father and mentor who helped me through the challenges of being a teenager, college student, and young professional. Beyond the little newspaper that only lasted a couple of issues, Jim and I enjoyed camping, old Cadillacs, the Red Skelton Show, and so many other activities. He loved writing, and when I asked him for fifty-two stories from his life he lit up, pulled out his portable Underwood-Olivetti typewriter and religiously sent dozens of stories.  His first stories describe life on a farm in northern North Dakota, continue to Massachusetts, diverting to the South Pacific for WWII, and returning to North Dakota for a successful career in Jamestown. We saved copies of the letters and had them bound, titling the collection

Short Stories of a Good Life

Below is the introductory letter I wrote and the invitation letter to him describing the story project. He was very proud of his autobiography, sharing copies with many friends.
Grandpa Guy Havelick


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