In many regards, my models for the duke and duchess of Moreland are my parents, a couple now married more than seventy years. They are still best friend, still sharing their own household into their nineties, though with a lot of help. Along the way, both parents have shared the occasional gem of wisdom, and I’ve hoarded those jewels up, and admired them often.
One comment my dad has often made has been a particularly frequent comfort. “You never know when you’re winning.” By this he means, the occasional set back, defeat, outright humiliation even, could be the kindest turn life could do you. As a young person, such guidance seems ridiculous. If we don’t get the job of our dreams, we’re devastated, and sure in our miserable bones the employer has made the wrong choice.
The person we fell for so hard dumps us after the third date, when we… you know. That date. Then… nothing.
But my dad backed up his aphorisms with stories. He, for example, wanted to be a dairy farmer, for all he’d been raised mostly on Long Island and along the Philadelphia Main Line. What he knew about dairy cows was next to nothing, but that fresh air, hard work, contributing to the food supply… for reasons I can’t fathom, that was his dream.
He got a job on one of those long, shiny silver milk trucks, going from farm to farm to collect the milk for the dairy cooperative. This was the first step in his grand scheme to buy an interest in a cow, then a cow, then two cows that he could breed. At the end of five years, he’d own a small herd, rented out to the best farmer in the valley, and be on his way as a dairy tycoon.
You gotta admire the guy’s vision.
A few weeks into the job, Himself was probably pondering his vision a little too hard, because he forgot to connect the truck’s drain hose to the holding tank at the diary. Two days worth of milk for multiple farms went right into the dirt, and Dad lost his job, as well as any prayer of a good reference for a similar work.
He was devastated. Wrecked, ruined. Dreams in tatters. Nothing to start over with. The Big Black Moment at the age of eighteen, memories of a childhood spent enduring the Depression turning black to desperate.
All was lost… until into this youthful miasma of hopelessness came Dad’s Uncle John, who’d taken an interest in Dad (and my grandma) when grandma had divorced my grandfather. Uncle John had noticed about Dad what Dad hadn’t noticed about himself.
The same intellect that could chart a path from penniless to dairy tycoon, could chart a course through college. At a time when only seven percent of the population had a college degree (circa 1938), Uncle John realized that Dad had those intellectual chops and more to spare.
Dad loved college, thrived in an academic environment, found an excellent scientific mentor, and over the course of time ended up in an endowed research chair at a major university. His field of expertise was…dairy science. He supported a family of nine on a professor’s salary, had great fun, traveled all over the world, inspired graduate students from many countries, and has more than 400 publications to his name.
Best of all, he never once got whacked in the face with a cow tail covered in manure, all because his dream did not come true.
I hold my father’s example close on the days when it seems our country will never find its balance, or a loved one will never find hers. Dark nights can yield bright dawns, hard struggles can bring enduring wisdom, and closed doors can result in open minds. I don’t have to see those dawns or have both hands on the wisdom to know my dad was right: We don’t know when we’re winning, so marching forward in good faith and with as much honesty and kindness as we can muster will always be a good choice.
When did you think you were losing, only find out later–sometimes much later–you were headed for a better path? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of Christmas in Duke Street, which releases October 15.
This is a difficult question, Grace. In my case, it would be choosing only ONE incident of where I *lost out* on something, only to come to realize later it was was best thing that could have happened to me!
My oldest son has autism…..talk about life throwing you a curve ball……but I firmly believe my husband and I (and other two, perfectly brilliant and gifted younger sons)are better people, more tolerant and compassionate because of Russell. We are better because we have to be to be his best advocate.
Perhaps this is not exactly what you are asking, but all the other times in my life pale to this!
So true, Teenie. My life has forever been changed, for the better, from having three sons with autism. They have all taught me so much about life and love and what truly is important.
I love this concept. More wisdom from Grace – and “His Grace”!
My son was devasted a couple of years ago when he was “made redundant” the morning after finishing a big engineering project. He was very fortunate to find another position only a month or so later and is now living in a location he loves and working in an environment that values his skills. Perhaps even more importantly he learned about humility, that being unemployed is not the same as being on holiday, and that the company that gave him a chance when other companies were “putting people off” because of an economic downturn (not sure if you use the same terms in the US) deserves his loyalty and best work.
maybe a game
I love this post. After 25+ years working for a major law firm, I had a title, an office, and a big salary. And I was miserable. Long hours, superiors who made my days agony, some co-workers who loved back stabbing, and work I no longer enjoyed. Then the company, after 160 years in existence, went bust. A few of the attorneys formed a new firm, but the staff they hired from the old firm was only the “younger” people with lower salaries. I was devastated – my only job ever was gone, and in my 40’s, I was too old. Quite an eye opener. Though it took a year, I found a job at a small firm, with a smaller salary. But they like and appreciate me, and I can respect my bosses. They’ve allowed me to reduce my hours. (and my stress) A loss that was a win in disguise.
Years ago I worked as a secretary in Personnel for a large company. One day my boss decided I should switch places with the secretary in the front office who had to deal with unhappy employees on a regular basis. I was horrified. This wasn’t even a promotion. It was a lateral transfer. I was not a happy camper. The idea of dealing with whiney, unhappy people was really unappealing to me. Got out my resume and started brushing it up. Didn’t expect to be there much longer.
Funny thing was that I quickly adapted to that job and actually came to love it. My reactions to angry people were not at all what I thought they would be. I quickly realized that they were not angry with me but with the situation. So I didn’t take it personally. And it felt good when I was able to help them. Sometimes this involved nothing more that lending a truly sympathetic ear or simply teaching them to read their check stub properly.
The people skills I learned in that job served me well in future positions and in my personal life as well.
Hmm… for some reason I was sure I would be married at age 28. I met my husband when I was 29. We got married when I was 35. He is a great guy and I’m glad I didn’t settle for the wrong guy.
For several reasons, I had to drop out of college, and was dismayed that I would never fulfill my lifetime dream of being a nurse. I ended up getting a job in the tech industry, where, several years later, I met my husband. If I had not quit school, I would have missed out on 32 wonderful years with the best companion I could ever have.
After six years of trying to fall pregnant, endless rounds of IVF treatment and the emotional roller coaster associated with infertility, my husband and I were blessed with the birth of our special son. After nearly giving up and feeling every month I was pregnant, only to discover that indeed I was not, to finally hold my child in my arms was something only a mother can understand. Two years later our daughter entered our life, naturally and without IVF assistance! The entire process taught me how much stronger I am than I realise and every single day is such a blessing to have children.
After 18 years of marriage, my husband and I divorced. I was totally devastated. I thought my whole life was ruined,over. After a year of wallowing and moaning and feeling sorry for myself, my widowed mother stepped in to convince me to go to work for her in her business. I didn’t want to. I never thought I would like it but she “needed” me. How can a daughter refuse when put like that? Surprisingly, and it was a surprise, I was very good at my job and I actually loved it. Eventually I bought it from her. I also a couple of years after I started working for her met a wonderful man who truly sees my good qualities and doesn’t care about my bad ones. What a surprising twist to my life! Aren’t mothers wonderful!
I needed that story like you wouldn’t believe. I have spent the last several months trying to figure out how I could retire from a job that is becoming increasingly intolerable. Not possible at this moment since my child just started college and I still have a mortgage.
I’m going to try to keep that story in mind, along with the saying about making an omelet out of cracked eggs. Because I can tell, you, my whole dozen has felt cracked!
Please tell your dad that his story helped someone today.