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Friday, 28 December 2007

Hiring the Elder

By Linda Davis of Grammology

Dave came to me when he was in his 60’s. It was unfashionable to hire someone his age. We live in a country that reveres the young, discards the old. Everything must be new, new, new. How unfortunate those who believe this are. How much they are missing.

I remember first meeting him. He had this urgency in his step that belied his years. He had tremendous stamina and expected the same of all around him. He was a taskmaster with a huge heart who was proud that in his 40 years in business, he had never fired anyone.

When he came to me, it was with a plea. He had men. These men worked in his shop for many years, his son among them. And they needed a home.

This was all I needed to hear. You see, Dave was cut from a cloth that I wish I had in bolts. Honest, hardworking, steadfast, generous, down-to-earth and decent, he was always ready to lend a helping hand. He was from the generation that saved the world. And, he was a genius. We always said that he could build a bridge out of twine and sticks.

My answer was instant and instinctive. Dave had a home in my company any time and, yes, he could start tomorrow. I was proud to have him in my world.

I didn’t know then how short his time would be.

Can a man in his 60s cut it? Can he impress the many 20- and 30-somethings in our company? Can he still be vital?

Truth is, he outpaced us all. He outthought us all. He outworked us all. The ground Dave walked on became hallowed. We improved to meet his standards and his example.

When we faced the impossible, Dave told me to buck up and be brave – that we could make it happen, no matter what. It was just because he said so that it WAS so. When I would try to tell him this, he would change the subject and get back to work, uncomfortable with recognition.

The day he told me he had a spot on his liver, he did so with his characteristic no-nonsense, “I will beat this” attitude. All positivity, he fought the beast in his body. We had watched him beat colon cancer five years prior and he would beat its cousin that still lurked in his body.

He never gave in to his sickness. Not ever. During his last bouts with chemotherapy, he worked to save a local landmark, single-handedly resurrecting it. In his bed in the hospital, he drew a sketch of a table he planned to make. As soon as he got out.

After he died, his wife, Pat, and I visited the landmark he helped to save. As we were leaving, we stood on the stoop, laid in the 1800s. They were talking about how impossible it was to repair it properly – that engineers had looked at it and all were stumped. Pat and I looked at each other; thinking, in unison, that we knew the one person who could solve the dilemma - "if Dave were here…"

I visited his house. The countless scale models he built himself were enshrined on a shelf. The wooden puzzles he handcrafted were in a cupboard. The furniture he made out of barn wood was in his shop, covered in a soft blanket of sawdust. The carved shelf unit was hanging on the wall. It was my favorite. When Dave had fished it out of a field, it was covered with the soot from a fire, unrecognizable. Dave gathered the pieces and patiently restored it. It was a carved beauty now. I often thought that Dave did that with all of us. He saw our flaws, no doubt, but he patiently restored us and made us all shine.

There was a big poster of Lady Liberty, scepter raised in fight, that always hung in the foyer. It was the symbol of Dave to me. Dauntless. Unwavering. Brave. Honest. True.

When Pat gave me the poster, I knew exactly where it belonged.

Every day I walk into my office, and that poster greets me. It makes me feel that Dave is there. Its presence fills a tiny piece of the hole in my heart.

Every now and then I have a difficult day, a day that seems insurmountable. I know where to turn. I look at Lady Liberty and I hear Dave’s voice in my head – not coddling, urgent - Get going Linda, you can do this. Now do it!

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a wonderful story about a wonderful man.

It was bittersweet for me because my brother died this year after battling cancer exactly the way Dave did. He had surgery for colon cancer years ago and the cells lurked in his body to recur in his liver and one lung. His first words to me were, "I'm going to beat this" and, like Dave, his optimism never faltered until he finally lost the battle.

Thank you for sharing this comment with me. Like your brother, Dave was very special. Like your brother, his illness took him from us too soon. He made a big difference just by being in this world as I can see your brother did.

It's too bad he isn't still around to read this; a lovely tribute to a man who is obviously missed by many. My dad was a little like that (on a smaller scale), but he always gave 150% on any job, both for others and for us.

Recently, I read a young bloggers lament that she had no heroes in her life. She argued her point of view as though only the rich and famous were candidates. Your story shows us so clearly that our heroes are those who, through demonstration of their optimism and strengths, touch our lives directly.

I'm so inspired Ronni, I knew Linda wrote a story however, I didn't know what it was about. As you can imagine this story is bringing chills to my body. What a wonderful tribute to a man I never knew, however, will gather strength from in the months to come.

Thank you Ronni for posting this for Linda..
Linda, thank you for writing it and being who you are, what a wonderful partner and human being. I'm proud to know you.....

Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

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