In 1975, when my father died at the age of fifty, I watched my 43 year old mother struggle with the mundane things we all take for granted.
On her behalf, I took Dad’s big, gas guzzling, standard shift GMC Jimmy and traded it in for a small more manageable automatic car for her. I helped her fill out an application for her very first credit card with a limit of $500. She had worked outside the home over the years, but had no credit….nothing in her name.
The tipping point for me came when I heard she, yet again, had to call my brother-in-law to come and change a fuse for her. She knew where the fuse box was but not how to tell if one was burnt out, or how to change one. A simple feat, really, but one she had never been shown, nor had any interest in learning. (By the way, fuses were used prior to circuit breakers and were small screw in glass knob type things.)
It was then I suppose, unconsciously, that I made up my mind that if I could learn to do something new …even something I might not need to know today…I would take the opportunity. I was 23, and the practical lessons I have learned astound me when I think of it.
The lessons weren’t always intentional, on my part, or my teacher’s. Some worked out better than others, and some were dismal failures. The worst that comes to mind was knitting. My neighbour and I both were expecting at the same time. I already had a baby, this was her first. Janet, who was younger than me, knit and made beautiful things. I decided to ask her to teach me. I picked out a beautiful coral coloured wool , certain I was having a girl, and a pattern for a baby sweater, bonnet and booties.
I was four months into my pregnancy when I had my first lesson and cast on those first stitches. My daughter was four and a half when she got that sweater and bonnet for her doll at Christmas. I never did make the booties!
Most of the lessons were more from helping, researching, and watching , than actually being taught.
Today I can build decks, small buildings, wallpaper, paint, do basic plumbing, shingle a roof, side a house, read a balance sheet, run a business successfully, make the best cheesecake this side of New York, give a decent haircut, hook-up a hundred pound propane tank, pull start a snow machine, drive a manual vehicle up to five tons, fire a shotgun with great accuracy, filet a fish, change a flat tire, train a dog, paddle a canoe, fly a small plane, start a fire with flint, give a manicure like a pro, make a spreadsheet program look easy, and change a diaper on a new born babe.
If you are afforded the opportunity to learn, jump at it. It may never come again.
It is my belief that no day is a day wasted, but a day where you can close your eyes knowing you have learned something new…even if it’s just a new word…is a treasure.