Friday, February 4, 2011

Lessons from my Papa

Some of the greatest lessons I learned from my Father were lessons of personal responsibility, both to myself and my society. Lessons such as never-ever giving up, how to treat others with dignity and respect, matters of Social Responsibility and Social Justice and a big one with him-the importance of a good education and hard work.

Although I was only less than two months away from my 8th Birthday I absorbed lessons from my Papa with a sponge-like capacity. I was the oldest, I was the Redhead and I was blessed to have a Father who adored me and always had time for me. He brought me along for everything from walks to the Park to Fishing to his Doctor’s Office and Rounds at the Hospital. And everywhere there were lessons. I took everything in; I thought he was just the greatest. As it turns out, my little Daddy’s Girl view of him turned out to be true. His big personality and immense capacity for kindness, generosity, empathy and fairness left its positive mark on so many people’s lives and shaped my life and the way I think and act today, my values, ethics and morals.

He died much too young. My young Mother, who found herself a widow at only 33 with three young girls under the age of 8 to raise, was left to carry on the vision they had started together. And she did so, to heroic proportions. My Uncle Eddie, my Father’s brother, took great care, attention and involvement in our lives, despite living clear across the country. He was my link to my Father. Always staying in touch, always sharing the many stories about the ‘Jimmy’ I didn’t know. Papa, to him was Jimmy, and through him I learned all about the childhood that shaped the man.

I am blessed with poignant memories of my Papa. One such memory is a beautifully warm Summers Day in which I accompanied my Papa to a Blueberry Farm. It was a great place, full of adventure and one I had been to before and was very happy to revisit. The Farmer was a friendly guy. We made our way up the dusty dirt road to his house in our old car. My Papa did not believe in the vulgarities of flashy automobiles. As always, I stayed close by my Papa’s side. I remember the feeling of the hot sun on my freckled face. My Papa asked if I wanted to pick some blueberries while he talked with the Farmer. Of course, I said “yes”. I knew the rules, not to go away from the rows of blueberry bushes. The Farmer gave me a big bucket and I was off to have my adventure. To me this bucket seemed enormous, I have a feeling if I were to view it today it probably would not actually be all that large…but in a child’s mind.

I picked and ate and picked and ate and sat down in the sun between the rows of blueberry bushes. I chatted away to myself; I must have been good company, because by all accounts this was a fairly regular occurrence. This particular day I discovered an extra treat; a frog. I don’t know where he came from, but this little Froggy was just hopping along beside the blueberries. I very carefully crept up and caught him. I was delighted with myself. I took my very full bucket of blueberries and my new pet frog and made my way back up towards the house. My Papa was also making his way towards me. I proudly displayed my catch to him. He was dually impressed. I asked if he thought the Farmer might let me take him home, and if he said yes, then could I. My Papa said we would have to ask the Farmer. Which he did and it was agreed that Froggy would become my new pet.

I noticed that we did not pay for the blueberries, so I asked my Papa about this in the car on the way home. He explained to me we did pay in a way, that the Blueberries were a kind of exchange. He called it Bartering and explained all that to me. I never once remember him talking down to me or not answering my questions. Good questions were always rewarded. He told me that the Farmer did not have a lot of money, but that he was not feeling well. My Papa said that he did not believe that any one should ever be denied medical treatment just because they did not have money to pay. People always have a way to pay and if people could be allowed to make exchanges for what they needed based on the different talents that everyone could bring to the table then everyone would always have enough and be taken care of. It made sense to me. It still does.

As it turned out there were many instances of these “exchanges” for medical services during his years of practice. My Papa did not become a Doctor to “make lots of money”. He became a Doctor to help people. And because he himself grew up so poor, he could not bear to turn away anyone in need simply because they did not have the cash. Likewise, he would not insult someone either with a mere hand-out, he knew the indignities that could come from having to take charity. But in allowing his Patients to “Barter” when the money was tight he ensured the good health and peace of mind of countless numbers of people. He also taught me a valuable lesson. We as a family also benefited with the joys of the exchange, things like blueberries, frogs, and delicious homemade Italian dinners just to name a few.

That is just one of many examples I learned from hanging around with my Papa. Always treat everyone fairly and with dignity, and by all means don’t be greedy. It’s not nice and not necessary; there is plenty to go around.

Daria Marie Walsh, © 04/02/2011

No comments:

Post a Comment