Lunches with Dad

Wayne Stellmach IMSA and Wilbert Funeral Services

Ever since I’ve been aware of Have the Talk of a Lifetime, I have made it a point to have more talks with my family about what is important to me and what is important to them.  These weren’t “official” talks, so to speak, or positioned as “we should talk” events, but simply conversations on a deeper level.  It’s been enlightening and I have to admit rather fun to learn things about my family whom I thought I already knew pretty well!  This is especially true of my Dad, who is 88 years old and still sharp as a tack.  I’ve always had a great relationship with Dad, calling him often and grabbing lunch with him at least once a month, which gives us the opportunity to talk about all kinds of things one-on-one.  I’m fortunate in that the majority of my large family remains in the area so we do have family gatherings around holidays and special events, but because the family is so huge these are not good opportunities to talk on deeper levels with Dad (or anyone else).  Lunches with Dad are really our best talks.  What have I learned about him that I already did not know?

Well, there was the time he hitchhiked across the United States, back in the days when the roads and the world seemed a bit tamer and safer, but still this was a daring adventure!  And it might explain my own adventurous streak!

I also learned that the huge pine tree that towered over our family home yard was transplanted from a wealthy estate, with permission from the estate manager who was overseeing work that my Dad was doing as a young electrician.  Dad would spend time with the estate manager as he waited for the wealthy couple to leave the property for the day as they did not care to be disturbed by the workers who were installing a swimming pool, for which Dad was running electrical lines for heat and lighting.  One day he heard that they were thinning out some trees around the mansion and Dad had just built our family home (yes, built it himself) in an unincorporated prairie area 20 miles west of Chicago and he had no trees or other landscaping.  The only reason this story came out was because I was telling Dad over lunch about a wonderful meal and wine pairing my wife and I had just attended at this estate, now an equestrian center and banquet hall hosted in the mansion.  He went on to tell me that he did work there “back in the day”.  Fascinating threads of life that I never knew about!

One day we were talking about career paths – my children’s and my own – and Dad shared with me something I never knew.  Although he had eventually launched a successful electrical contracting business which ultimately employed several of my siblings, Dad said that while working as an electrician and manager at other firms earlier in his career, he was passed over for promotions several times.  But they were conscious decisions he made because he placed our family above his job.  He worked hard and put in a full day, but at the end of the work day, he left to be home with Mom and us 7 kids – and all the craziness that created!  He was told if he was to advance, he had to put in additional time, but he continued to decide that family truly came first.  As I said, he did pretty darned good for himself and for all of us but the things you take for granted…

So while seemingly examples of just random or idle chit-chat, I learned quite a bit from these talks about his lifetime.  His priorities, his spunkiness, his values, what matters most to him and his being willing to stick his neck out for the sake of his family.  Now that’s a Talk of a Lifetime!

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