Three years ago today my father-in-law passed away. We flew across the country to be at his side. He was at home, surrounded by family, just as he had wanted. Processing the loss of a loved one takes many forms. In this Guest Post, Hubby shares some reflections on his Dad. I conclude with a Tribute Poem.

Unfinished: Guest Post by Larry S.

Dad hated to leave things unfinished.

I heard him say it and expect it countless times: finish what you start.  It didn’t matter how long it took or how tired you were, always finish what you start. He said it, lived it and expected it of others.

That’s probably why the unfinished decoy bothered him. He started it with the thought that it would be his last. One final decoy with carefully detailed feathers and a unique head alignment. He told me that as he carved or burned the feathers he remembered all the hunts and ducks over all the decades with family and friends. But declining health, gout, and arthritis robbed him of the chance to finish it. And it bothered him.

When we talked on the phone or when I was there for my last visit he talked about how next week or next month he would finish it. It would be unique and he knew who he wanted to give it to. Although he never said it I think that he wanted to finish it simply because it was how he had lived all his life. Just like how over the last year of his life he wanted to pay the bills the day they arrived for fear that he would die and they would be unfinished business.

I have a number of his decoys and every time I see them I think of him. His craftsmanship is incredible but the unfinished decoy is my favourite. Every time I see it I am reminded of his attention to detail and desire to do something different than others would do. But I am also reminded that we don’t know how or when we will cross our finish line and therefore we will all leave something unfinished behind us. The only question is this: what unfinished business will we leave behind and what will it say about us?

A Tribute to my Father-in-Law by E.S.

Not one to shirk, you toiled long and hard
To provide for your family.
The house you built, walls, ceilings, doors.
Avoiding debt, bare boards for floors.

A fisherman’s son, you kept the tradition
Setting nets in spring’s cold early dawn.
You knew every wave, every cove, come what may
Of the turbulent deep waters of Lake Erie Bay.

Autumn’s leaves turn to gold and red
The brittle marsh grasses rustle in the breeze.
Skimming the lake, ducks in the skies.
Black Lab by your side, eager to retrieve the prize.

The land was fruitful, wild game was plenty
For those who knew hunting’s lore.
Wild goose, turkey, deer and duck
Your skill on the hunt was not up to luck.

Winter’s cold and frigid snowy days
Lock the Bay in its frozen grasp.
Not one to rest, nets are inspected and mended.
Always something to do, something to be tended.

Fishing is in your blood, even winter doesn’t stop you
From dragging a hut out onto the frozen water.
Patiently waiting, a hole cut through thick ice
Bait on the hook, fish on the line, tug once, tug twice.

Small sons in your wake, imparting your knowledge
Of hunting, fishing, gathering, trapping.
Stories of obstacles and challenges overcome
Lessons to share, the heritage you came from.

The years are hard on a lake in the sun
The nets grow heavy with slippery, glistening fish.
Yet a real man must not rest from his labours
He must be the best, better than his neighbours.

Until one day, your chest feels tight and sore
You can’t shake off the feeling, something isn’t right.
Once again the pain returns in a wave
You bluster and bemoan, determined to be brave.

Though still in your middle years, just past fifty,
The heart attack has a long term effect.
You’re more cautious, less hearty, letting go of some toil
Turning to golfing, nurturing a garden, tilling the soil.

You are not content to watch the seasons
Though other ailments rise to diminish your health,
You take up tools, carving first a paddle
You’re not ready yet to give up the battle.

The punters relish the paddles you carve
They are strong and sturdy, propelling boats in the lake
Your skill increases, a decoy is next on your list
Shaping the body, the wings, the head, you persist.

Black Duck - 1996
Black Duck – 1996

You know them by sight, every one you can name,
A pin-tail, canvasback, bufflehead and scaup.
A goldeneye, mallard, widgeon, wood duck and teal,
Every one is beautiful, each has a special appeal.

How have the years gone by in a flash?
A once strong and mighty man diminished.
Ailments by the score, crippled hands on your knee
Eyes turned inward, what do you foresee?

And when your life’s journey has come to an end,
Your stories are silenced, your voice is no more
We find on your table, a carving, unfinished
A silent reminder: you live on in our memories, undiminished.

In memory of Frank Schram: June 23, 1932 – November 9, 2013

Unfinished Decoy
Unfinished Decoy

2 thoughts on “Unfinished: a Reflection and a Tribute

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