Boys and Men

“Grama died”, the little girl said to her older brother.  Even though the bacon and scrambled eggs their father had whipped up was scrumptiously inviting, the ten-year-old boy knew what he had to do.  He went back upstairs, into his parents’ bedroom and wrapped his arms around his sobbing mother.  The human spirit is ever-prescient.

Some twenty years earlier, in another town, far to the south, a 16-year-old boy had just received his driver’s license.  His father’s brand-new car had the detached bumper that was in fashion back then.  He proudly headed “around the block”, to run an errand for his Dad, while showing his friends his good fortune.  One of his buddies talked him into going for a short spin, so he took the kid along to the store.  When the friend was dropped off, the new driver got too close to the curb, and managed to snag the bumper, ripping it from the frame.  Six months and dozens of chores later, his father gave him back the license.  The human spirit can be very easily clouded.

I’ve always been glad to be male.  My boyhood was somewhat coloured by having been alternately blessed and cursed with an independent worldview, a forgiving soul and an autistic brain- which was tempered by my thirst for learning and by being part of a large, loving family.  My affliction is mild enough that I have never needed a special program or altered scheduling.  It has brought perceptual problems, every so often, but life, overall has been just fine.

My mother once said no male is a real man until he hits 40.  Boys tend to lay their difficulties on someone else’s doorstep.  Men, like my late father and father-in-law, are not thrilled by life’s difficulties, but take the burden of their resolution onto their considerably broad shoulders.  By that standard, I have flipped back and forth between manhood and boyhood at least twenty-dozen times, since I turned 18.  To my great relief, though, boyhood has been a thing of the past, for at least five years.  In my case, my Mom was about  18 years off.  Life has a way of burning the rough edges off anyone, or anything.

The great men in my life, though, have always shown a puckish spirit.  Norm Fellman, my father-in-law, who left us on Wednesday, had a sense of fun that was second to none.  It probably kept his father from clobbering him when the car got mangled, and certainly kept him alive when the Nazis captured him, in the fog of the Battle of the Bulge, in 1944.  By all accounts, he ended up largely getting the better of them, in the end- despite the harrowing, horrific circumstances of his 100 days of Hell, in Berga, Germany.

I learned a lot from Norm, from my Dad, and from so many in the GI Generation.  The boy who comforted his mother, on the death of his beloved Grama, is now in the grandparent range himself.  So, no matter what pleasures present themselves, and what difficulties appear, to be resolved, it’s on this man to take the bull by the horns.

God bless you, Norm, and we’ll keep the faith for ya.

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