An anniversary of a birthday was yesterday and it got me thinking – yea, I know, dangerous but it’s the off-season for racing so …
One thing you learn as the years go by – you really never quit learning. If you’re ever around older people for a length of time, you learn that experience and time equates to wisdom and knowledge. Think you know it all? Ha! Many people come and go in your life and hopefully you’ll receive bits and pieces that you can take with you on your life’s journey.
My father has been in a wide variety of businesses, work and hobbies and I’ve learned a lot from him along the way. He himself, especially early on, learned quite a bit from his older brother Vernon Hier, my uncle. Vern, as he was called, would have been 84, yesterday. He had an incredible life for someone who if you met him, was a fairly stoic, calm and easy-going person. He was studious and early on, had already acquired the nak that many people had back in the early decades of the 20 century, the ability to do just about anything. Like his father, my grandfather, who was gifted mechanically, these traits would come in handy for much of his working career.
He was drafted near the end of WWII and entered the 82nd Airborne (The All-Americans). He was packed and ready to be one of the first people to land on mainland Japan in what was fast becoming a meat-grinder – but the two atomic bombs were dropped to end the war.
He was a mechanic for many years working on big rigs and I do mean big rigs. He became a master mechanic, working on the biggest rigs in the world. Then his wife Beryl, who was an angel, acquired cancer and they fought it for a few years but eventually my aunt succumbed. It was a big blow to the family and hit Vern hard. Obviously his Christian faith helped him through it.
Later in his career he was moving a tractor when, not of his own fault, a power line fell on the rig, electrocuting him and most-assuredly should have killed him. It blew him up to the point where he spent many months in the burn wards and rehabilitation centers to learn to walk and become a “normal” person.
Somewhat retired at this point, he concentrated more on his gardening and would actually become a master gardener – yea, I didn’t know they had them either. He also took up square-dancing. Yes, square-dancing, even though the accident had blown out the cheeks of his ass and destroyed his elbow.
A few years later, while traveling the Sepulveda Pass, to one of his square dances he loved to do, he was rear-ended and the car blew up in a fiery crash. He was burned significantly but somehow didn’t die although once again, he spent many painful weeks trying to get back to normal – whatever that meant at this stage. He did recover to the point he could drive with aids. He moved to Kingman Az. (I would have moved too as L.A. wasn’t getting it done), where along with gardening, took up graphic design using a computer. Yes, the paratrooper and master mechanic was also a great gardener and graphic designer – Who da thunk. He was passionate about these endeavors and did them the best he could and that passion was evidenced in the results.
During these later years, combined with the accidents and all those paratrooper jumps with Airborne, Vern developed Parkinson’s Disease, but he kept on until finally the body gave out – he died a little over a year ago.
I learned a lot, not so much from my uncle directly, but more from the way he lived his life: Believe in God, work hard at what you do with passion and do what you like, no matter the stereotype. I will say, Vern was much more out-going and talkative in his latter years – With death around you at every turn, you can understand.
Moral of the story? Work with passion about something you like and live a full life. No excuses. Have faith. I’ve learned to watch and listen and remember, somebody else may be paying attention and watching you – just as I was watching my uncle. You can never stop learning and gaining invaluable wisdom.
OK, where is that race season? Pretty soon I’ll be writing about …
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