Category Archives: Tribute

Happy Father’s Day, Jim

Jim Wheaton

My dad’s left arm was shorter than his right and his hand was curved, almost useless, from a fall from a horse when he was 3. I almost forgot that he might be a bit challenged from time to time. He never talked about it, never brought attention to it. He just lived with it. We saw a panhandler on the street when we were on vacation when I was a child. He walked up to the man, who had an arm just like his. The man asked for money, holding up his arm. My dad simply held up HIS arm and said, “Get a job.”

My dad loved to tell jokes and stories. He loved puns. He loved sarcasm. He survived by humor when he was a child, dealing with kids on the playground, who made fun of his arm. He made them laugh so hard they finally accepted him and quit bullying.

He brought his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma from Chicago/New York/Long Island with a dream of having his own advertising agency. 25 years later, he won a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “Unique contribution to the advertising world in Tulsa, OK” shortly before he died, having supported his family and putting two kids through college.

He came to a class when I was going for a Master’s Degree as a Reading Specialist. My talk in that class was teaching children to listen wisely to advertising. My dad was the guest speaker. He was a bit of a celebrity, billing himself as “Tulsa’s 2nd worst radio voice.” His radio spots got people’s attention because they made you listen, sometimes making you laugh. You always remembered the companies lucky enough to hire him. At the end of the class, he said something to the effect – “It’s fun to write advertising commercials. It’s fun to come and talk to you today. But the thing I love the most about today is getting to watch my daughter give a speech. My daughter is Linda Lewis.” You could have heard a pin drop at the surprise  – and then delight  – in the room. They erupted in applause and I cried.

My dad was unique. He was ahead of his time. He wanted my brother and me to call him “Jim” because “dad” kind of embarrassed him. He was an only child and didn’t figure he was that great as a dad. He set an example of honesty, integrity, determination and courage in living his life every day. He said, “Remember me laughing.”

I do, Jim, even with tears in my eyes. Happy Father’s Day.

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” ~Clarence Budington Kelland

 

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Emily – the Power of “YES!”

Emily Wright Cumming

Emily Wright Cumming

Emily was from my husband’s family. We’re not great on relationships, but we’ve decided that Emily was a cousin of my husband’s mother. She lived to be 90, happily married for 68 years. A life well lived.

I didn’t know her well. We went to visit the family at Tate, a private community toward the top of a mountain in Jasper, Georgia. There was a beautiful lake, and members of the family were allowed to purchase land and build homes around it. Emily’s family had a beautiful home, and her sister, Miriam, and her family had a home on further down the road that went around the lake. I don’t know how many relatives lived there. We visited twice – once when I was pregnant with our son and again when our son was about 8. Otherwise, our contact consisted of Christmas cards once a year.

The reason I’m writing this is that Emily changed my life.

I have rarely seen anyone so full of life. She simply glowed. When I met her, she didn’t smile and say she was glad to meet me. She gave me a huge hug that brought tears to my eyes, making me feel I had made her day by coming. I learned quickly that this was the effect she had on everyone, and it was sincere .

There was a large dock by the lake that had a roof.  This was the meeting spot for picnics, swimming, canoeing, painting, reading – however you wanted to enjoy the day. At night the family would gather, instruments in hand, playing and singing together long into the night. I will never forget the happy faces of each member of the family as they would suddenly think of another song, start it, and the others would join in.

Emily was the center, it seemed to me, of whatever was going on. I’ve never seen such exuberance, such enthusiasm, such honest delight. Her pride in her family knew no bounds. She would introduce me to one of her children, telling me what their passion was in life. It was beautiful to watch and hear. Her reaction, when someone would suggest an activity was, “Oh, YES! That would be fun!”

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My gut reaction to breaks in routine, suggestions, surprises is, “No.” I have no clue why that is, and I really don’t like it about myself. My husband learned early that if he wanted me to do something, he should ask, listen to my “no,” and then let it go. I would usually keep thinking about the suggestions, usually coming around to ‘yes’ after I had a chance for the idea to settle.  I met Emily, and I decided that I would really work to change myself. I wanted to be more like this wonderful lady who brought smiles everywhere she went, getting people off their duffs, moving them along with the happy force of her enthusiasm.  It’s the power of ‘YES!” AND living life to the fullest, missing as few opportunities as possible.

I was sad to learn that Emily left us last week. In MY mind, though, she will always live at Tate, happily fishing off the bridge that went over the lake at one spot, working in the vegetable garden that was right outside her door, cooking mounds of food to feed anyone who came, making people laugh and enjoy themselves.

I hope she knows what a difference she made.  I never told her that she became a role model for me. With a hug and sweeping me into the family, she changed my life, making me want to be a better person. What a treasure was Emily!

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