Thanks, Dad

Brett Fernau


Usually, when the elements of the latest Utata Group's Iron Photographer project are published, I have at hand all the physical elements and only have to incorporate the artistic or technical element. This time the elements are, "1 - something that reflects your heritage, 2 - used paper, 3 - negative space. Used paper I've got, negative space exists all on its own, but heritage, oh my, you have to already have that and someone else has to have given it to you, or left it to you, or established it.

The elements and the project description were published on September 8, 2009. Today is September 17. That's nine days to come up with something as seemingly simple and straightforward as one's own heritage. The problem is that heritage is one of those concepts that didn't ever come up in any conversation that I ever had with my family. My wife knows all about her grandparents on both sides of her family and there has been some research done that traces her European roots back a few generations. My family has nothing like that. I never knew my grandparents on my mother's side and only knew my grandmother on my father's side. I recall that she was a nice old lady with an apartment in Chicago on Paulina Street. I learned later that she spoke German and that her husband, my grandfather, was a Frenchman. He committed suicide when my father was about nine years old. We never talked about him. We only saw my Grandmother on occasional holidays and we never talked about where she came from or what her life was like growing up. I've, no doubt, got roots in Europe, even relatives there perhaps, but I really wouldn't know where to start if I even wanted to attempt that sort of research.

So, what have I got? My mom and dad didn't talk about how they met, or how they felt about things. They talked about how the business was going, and hounded me about my poor performance in school. The conversations just never went any deeper than that. We moved several times while I was growing up, so I never really had any long-term friends, and there just never seemed to be any sort of traditions established within my family since we were constantly starting over again in a new place every few years. I talked to my wife, Carol, about this a couple of nights ago. She said that probably my father's greatest gift to me was his support and participation in my Boy Scouts of America activities, particularly the part about being prepared. She considers that one of my best assets.

I've been thinking about Carol's comments ever since, and tonight I pulled out a few of the patches and medals and such that I've keep from those days. I think I do owe my dad some gratitude for his pushing me along the way toward earning my Eagle Scout award. Of all the things I've learned over the years, the skills, the virtues, and the fundamental beliefs that I gained through Scouting have served me as well or better than anything else I've studied, and that knowledge has been with me the longest. Thanks, Dad, for helping me get a good moral grounding, a sense of self-reliance, and some basic survival skills. I use them every day. I guess I do have some heritage after all.

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