Parenting Advice For All Parents
In many ways we are all a compilation of the experiences and lessons learned over our years. Nurture vs Nature has been debated by far more intelligent people than I over the years and the debate will most likely linger long after I am put to rest. I am in a fairly unique position in that I was adopted so all I really know with any certainty is the Nurture side of the argument. I never searched for my birth parents. I have no knowledge of their medical background (although I’m willing to bet they were from pretty hardy stock) and I know nothing of their personalities.
What I do know is what I learned from Evelyn and Dale Holland, my adopted parents. I spent the first twenty years of my life learning the ways of manhood from my dad and for fifty-four years I learned about unconditional love from my mom. As is always the case with parents and their children, there were lessons that they taught me through word of mouth and there were lessons learned because “actions speak louder than words.”
I was taught through observation that a man is only as good as his word. I was taught that friends and loved ones take care of their own and compassion for the less fortunate is a requirement if one is to truly reach their higher calling. I was taught that giving is infinitely more important than taking and a family’s wealth is not measured in dollars and cents.
I was taught so much more but for now, please allow me to take you on a little journey back in time as we briefly look at the early days of Evelyn O’Dowd and Dale Holland.
I am the last person one would want to talk to about family history because I was not the keeper of the family records and I didn’t pay that much attention growing up to dates and places, but to the best of my recollection my mother was born in 1922 in Minneapolis. After a few years there her family (mother, father, sister and brother) moved to Charles City, Iowa, where my mother grew into her teen years. By all accounts she lived a happy childhood and the family was hard-working and deeply religious during those years in Iowa.
The Great Depression took its toll on this family just as it did most families in the United States beginning in 1929 when my mother was seven. She remembered the bread lines and she remembered neighbors taking care of each other. Vegetable gardens were planted in the neighborhood and everyone shared in the bounty. Jobs were scarce but I was told that her family got by on love and prayer and I have no reason to doubt that summary.
Her history gets a little sketchy at this point and the reason for that was my mother’s reticence to speak about certain matters, but to the best of my knowledge she was married at the age of sixteen and had her daughter, Darlys, when she was seventeen in 1938. It is entirely possible that I am off a year in those dates but that really is not important. Sometime in the next few years she obtained a divorce and as the war years approached she and her parents raised my sister. I have pictures of my mother in a welding suit helping to build ships during the war but in all honesty I do not know where that picture was taken.
Born in 1919, Dale LeRoy Holland was the youngest of four children in East St. Louis, Missouri. Dad grew up in a rough and tumble household in a rough and tumble neighborhood and his childhood is littered with stories of fist fights and scrambling to make a buck. By the time dad was a sophomore in high school the Great Depression was kickin’ butt and takin’ names and he dropped out of school and rode the rails to neighboring towns looking for work so he could send money back to his mother, who by that time was divorced and raising four children on her own.
It was by no means an easy life and I suspect when WWII finally broke out my dad was more than happy to join the Army and make a regular wage. At this point family history again becomes hazy because somehow, at some point, my dad met my mother in Charles City and they began to date only to have the war put that budding romance on hold.
By war’s end he had been active in five major campaigns in Italy; in 1945 he was discharged and returned to Iowa to marry my mother.
Togetherness and a Family
My dad had at one point during the war been stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington, and after my parents got married they moved to Tacoma, Washington, with my mother’s parents in tow. With the war economy a thing of the past my dad obtained a job as a part-time laborer at Pioneer Sand & Gravel and he held that job for twenty-one years until he died in 1969.
For most of their married life my mother held a variety of jobs, usually a clerk or cashier at retail stores. I can say with all certainty that we were not poor but we rarely had any money to spare. We went on one family vacation per year, more often than not to Seaside, Oregon, and occasionally we would go out to eat at a restaurant. For the most part they worked hard with very little to show for it and never, and I can’t emphasize this point enough, never complained. Hard times would come, hard times would go, and each morning they got up, went to work and went about their lives grateful for what they did have.
You might find this first lesson a little strange but bear with me. I watched my parents work their collective butts off for at least twenty years. I know for a fact they did not like their jobs but each day they were up on time, off to work and home to rest so they could do the same thing all over again. I followed that pattern for decades. I had my first job when I was fifteen, worked through high school and college and worked full time for forty years. I understand as well as anyone the value of hard work and earning your way through life. Somewhere along the way, though, I came to the realization that the years are running out and what I really want to do it spend time with loved ones. If that means having less then so be it, but working full time no longer appeals to me. So, the lesson I learned from my parents with regards to working is that life is too short to work at something you hate while the remaining months and years rapidly slip by. I now follow my passion, namely writing, and I work when I want to work. I’m not sure if my parents would approve or not but I thank them for the hard work they did so that I could reach this point in my life.
I learned unconditional love from my parents. I was given a childhood some can only dream about. For sure I was punished when I did wrong but I was never shamed and you would be hard-pressed to find two more devoted parents than I had. I have raised my son the same way, to know the difference between right and wrong and to never doubt that he is loved. To have that kind of emotional support from parents is a gift that is priceless and it just re-enforces my belief that love is the greatest gift we can give to a child or really to any living being.
I learned to be supportive of others and to realize that we are only as strong as our weakest link. Giving is something that is done without expectations; you give because you can and because someone has a pressing need. There are no questions asked if it is a loved one or close friend, and even if it is a stranger we can always lend emotional support to give them someone to lean on. Kindness costs so damn little and to refuse kindness is to turn away from our higher calling.
I learned that you have to earn respect. It is not something that is given freely unless you have done your fair share and treated others with respect.
Most of all, though, there was a lesson I learned simply by observation and then by reflection, and it is something that I have seen in thousands of others over the years. I don’t know what dreams my parents had when they started out together but I do know that over the years they without a doubt changed their dreams and took it all in stride. They took the hand they had been dealt and they got on with the business of living. They took some hard hits along the way but continually got back up and moved forward. I find that sort of resiliency to be the core of who we are as a race. No matter the obstacles, no matter the odds, no matter the broken dreams and shattered hopes, most of us get back up and move forward. I can say without a doubt that the light that shines inside of me, that light that kept me reaching out for life in my darkest days, came from my parents and others like them who had earned my respect over the years. We humans are a remarkable race reflected by our very basic will to live. We are survivors, you and I, and millions out there like us and that my friends, is a pretty damn good legacy to hand off to future generations.
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)