Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Man Behind the Inspiration

Last weekend was a beautiful testament to a great man. I am humbled by how many lives my grandpa's life touched. His service and the weekend spent with family was exactly what he wanted. Below is what I wrote for my grandpa. He had the opportunity to have it read to him almost two months ago. It was important to me, and, I'm sure to him, that he heard it before he left this world. I read it aloud at his service on Saturday.

The Knot

I was young enough to not remember exactly when you taught me. But I was old enough to still be able to picture your hands confidently working the line in twists and loops. It is your hands I am fixated on. They look a good kind of worn, like a man’s hands should be, used and aged, but strong and capable. They are a work of art as you tie a knot you have tied so many times. Your attention to detail and your serious tone convey the importance of this lesson. I follow along and tie the knot a few times myself. The first time the knot does not take, but eventually, it holds true and strong.

The significance of this lesson did not fully register with me until some twenty years later when my father-in-law took me fishing. I hadn’t fished in a long time and I was worried that when we arrived at the shores of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir I would have to ask my father-in-law to tie the fishing knot. And he would have, without comment, because he is a gentleman, but a twenty-eight year old man should not have to ask for such things, whether he regularly fishes or not. So, I didn’t.

I took the fishing rod and reel he handed me along with a few lures down to the shore. Silently standing there, with the water lapping at the rocks, I threaded the line up through the tip of the rod and started the knot. My fingers moved like I had fished every day of my life since you first taught me all those years ago and the knot held fast as I checked its strength.

In minutes I was fishing the Gorge with a great man, but I was thinking of you. You, who knew that, whether I would fish every weekend of my life or just once a year, to tie a fishing knot was a necessary skill to have. And I knew it then, in a funny way, but clearer than ever, that I had passed a great test of manhood simply by tying a knot, by feeling capable, even for a fleeting moment. And that as important as teaching me how to tie a knot was, it was more important to teach me so that I might someday know how to teach my son or daughter so that they would learn from me as well as I have learned from you and, selfishly, that I might be remembered, as I remember you now.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

A Man's Man

This weekend my entire family will be traveling to Fort Collins, Colorado to celebrate the life of my grandfather, Bryce Howard Neff. I was extremely close to him and I am honored to have the opportunity to speak at his memorial. I will share those words here on the blog after this weekend. For now, I will just say that I have always loved my name, not just because it is relatively uncommon, but because I am named after such a great, strong, capable man. He was a patriot, Air Force Captain, father, esquire, grandfather, great grandfather, a friend to countless people, an amazing storyteller, and a devoted and loving husband over nearly sixty-two years of marriage. Godspeed, Grandpa.

This is a picture of my grandpa (at right) when he was stationed at Iwakuni, Japan in 1950 and 1951 during the Korean War.