Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I don't think I can really tell the tale of Kelsey's life and my part in it without telling you something about my father, even though he died when she was five, and was always, except for a couple of visits back and forth, over a thousand miles away in more ways than one. But, I am who am because of him, both good and bad, and I made decisions based on how I was raised that impacted my family. My father brought me up based on attitudes and values he had learned from his father, and so it goes. Even though his blood doesn't flow through my veins, I realize that I am a part of him and his legacy lives on through me and how I live my life. The results are, like the man himself, complex.

My father, Graham Labin Bleiler, worked all my childhood to teach me three things: to work hard, love football and love the outdoors (specifically to love shooting and snagging things in the outdoors). Well, two out of three isn't bad. I do like being outdoors, but I don't hunt or fish. As a matter of fact, as many of you know, I support a herd of deer, some of whom come when I call their name. However, it's that first lesson that was the most tantamount. Mom and Dad came of age at the height of The Great Depression and spent the best years of their lives during World War II, separated by continents and the constant threat of death. A lot of what we all whine and complain about in our daily lives now would seem completely foreign to my dad. Too much work to do? Just be glad you have a job. Don't like your job? Ditto. He would not have understood or had any patience for any of the struggles my children went through. When my attitude very early on was, "Just snap out of it!" I thought it in his voice. And even later, when my outlook was a little more enlightened, I still would wonder whether my children wouldn't be better off growing up during the depression because they wouldn't have the luxury of worrying over their inner turmoils and would have to concentrate on the more rudimentary tasks of just staying alive. Some time back I decided it was useless to ponder such things. But, for my parents, that was the life they led. Whatever issues they had, such as my mother's feelings that her own mother did not love her, were small in comparison of what the world was throwing at them every day. Out of that global turmoil came my dad's belief that his number one task was to provide for my mother and me. As a matter of fact, only a few years ago, my mother's comment about my dad was, "He was a good provider." It was the only good thing she came up with to say about him, but I think it was the most important thing to her. Good lover? Probably not really. Good companion? Definitely not, they fought like cats and dogs. Supportive helpmate? I don't really remember him saying much to her that was meant to buoy up her ego. But, we had a nice house. We had all the food we wanted. She had her china and crystal and silver. I know she felt she married well; it was the core of the famous fight she had with her sister Merle that caused them to stop speaking to one another in the mid-90's.

There was no doubt for me what my primary role as a parent was: to provide for my children. To work hard to make something of myself. And, boy, I did do that. I worked really, really hard. Both of my daughters have said at various times, in no uncertain terms, that they would have rather had their mother than the things they had. And, in the most ironic twist of all, treating their illnesses and addictions drained us of most of what I worked so hard to gain. But, I still can't quite figure out what's wrong with a strong work ethic. Clearly, there needs to be a balance between home and work. But, how much is too much of one and not enough of the other? How can one fully live up to the responsibilities of one part of your life while not shirking the other? I don't know. I've never done it.

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