Thursday, January 9, 2014

Inspiration from a Remarkable Man

Woody is in the center.
“I’m going to buy you a T-shirt with a target on the back,” said the smiling and imposing man.

“Why’s that?” I asked in response with a touch of trepidation.

“So I can hit you from long distance,” answered my new girlfriend’s father.  “Hahahahaha!”

Those were the first words that I can recall my father-in-law speaking to me, and they were the beginning of over 30 years of laughter, support, encouragement, advice, and….lots of friendly ribbing at my expense.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The world has its share of bad men.  The majority of us are simply mediocre.  Only occasionally will you run across someone who is truly remarkable.  I found one, and I’ve been married to his daughter since 1985.

That remarkable man, Wendell (Woody) Vandivier…aka Boo Boo…, passed away on Saturday morning, January 4, 2014. 

The feeling is surreal.  On the one hand, his family is heartbroken.  On the other, we are celebrating the life of a man who has made such a difference in the lives of those around him.  Some in huge ways, and others in small ways.  And, I think the reason for this strange combination of feelings is his remarkable character.


I’ve had that word force itself to the front of my mind ever since I learned of his passing.  In some small way, I want to share what made him so remarkable to me.  I’m going to try to at least give you a flavor of the man who became my second dad.  One of my daughters made a list of 10 things she will always remember about him.  That seems like a good enough format for me to copy.

  1. He always met me with a smile and a joke.  ALWAYS.  The truth is that he did that with EVERYONE.  Family.  Friends.  Guys walking down Barth Avenue.  Waitresses.  Even nurses and physical therapists working with him as he neared his passing.  It was his job to put a smile on your face, and he worked at it tirelessly; sometimes planning his next trick or joke days or weeks in advance.
  2. He loved his granddaughters with all of his heart, and poured himself into them whenever they were around.  They were his joy.  Whether it was holding them on his lap in his Lazyboy chair when they were little, or traveling to their chosen college for a visit as they grew up, he made the extra effort to show them how much they meant to him.
  3. While I did see him occasionally get emotional and once raise his voice, I NEVER saw him lose his temper.  Ever.  He never demanded respect, but always somehow attained it.  I suspect that he earned his family’s deep respect by pouring so much love on them that they could not bear to show him any cause for disappointment.
  4. He just loved life.  Whether it was traveling to see his family, working in his garden or Piddle Parlor, or helping me cut up a fallen spruce, he loved to be with people…especially his family…, and he lived in the moment.  He enjoyed life as it came his way, and that joy washed over onto anyone he was around.

Okay, so I didn’t get to 10 things on my list.  Maybe not, but I think I did get to the heart of what made him remarkable.  I haven’t said it yet, but it’s there…  It’s in between the lines…  It’s leaking out…  Did you catch it?

It was his Unselfish Nature.

He was always giving to someone.  His wife.  His boys.  His daughter.  His daughters-in-law.  His son-in-law.  His granddaughters.  His great grandchildren.  His extended family.  The guy who owned the gas station down the road.  The man who owned the property where he gardened.  The apprentices that went through his training program.  The myriad of waitresses that took his orders over the years.  The receptionist at the doctor’s office.  The nurses and physical therapists at Rosegate.  Basically, whoever was right in front of him at the time.

What made him remarkable, and someone I desperately want to imitate was that he was a GIVER.

Wholeheartedly.  Without reservation.  With joy.

In our world today,… with all that we see around us,… all the mess that is mankind,… when you run across a person like Woody Vandivier,…someone who is an unselfish person with a mind to give joy to those around them, the only word that can describe it is:  REMARKABLE.

And, I’ve been lucky enough to be his son-in-law for nearly 30 years.

I have truly been blessed.