Ray was my father and father to my ten siblings. He had lived through the depression which impaled a strong sense of waste-not-want-not in him, which is probably where I got my own strong sense of Refuse-Reuse-Recycle.
Ray wasn’t an educated man but he was very intelligent and an excellent teacher. He always had bits of wisdom to share. Some of my favourites – common sense isn’t too common; the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked; don’t wipe shit on your way up the ladder cuz you never know when you’ll have to come back down; when you go on a job interview, give respect to everyone you encounter, you never know who’s related to the boss; don’t ever be ashamed to work, even if it’s slinging shit, it’s work. I could fill the page here with my dad’s repertoire of advice, but probably the most valued part of me that I owe to him is his gift of teaching me (and my sisters) to use tools, despite being from a generation when men did all the fixing and women did the domestics. He taught us all how to fix our bikes, build a fort with wood scraps or doll house furniture from cardboard, use a circular saw, a jigsaw, a band saw, a drill press, how to properly hold a hammer, change our cars’ oil, fix a flat, and even stitch up the pet dog. If I had an idea to build something, he didn’t make the plans for me. He sat me down and asked me how I wanted it to look, and why not this or that way. Once we mulled over the benefits of different options, he’d have me do the calculations for measurements. He taught me how to create… my dad knew there might be better ways, or better materials, but he never discouraged us to begin from where we were, with what we had. As common sense would say, there is no other place from which to begin, but many people wait for the right moment, wait for the right relationship, wait for a better job etc. My father built with what he had or what he could afford. He taught us kids to believe in ourselves, that we could do it, whatever ‘it’ was. He insisted we each had common sense, the ability to read, hands to work with and the smarts to make a plan. Even with primitive tools, tasks could be achieved — just needed a bit more ‘elbow grease’.
Additionally, there was no need to wait for a man to bring us flowers; if we were smitten, we should let it be known – go after what we want… “and some boys need to be hit in the head with a 2×4 cuz they just don’t get it”, he’d say. Yup, a bit of a renegade for such an era my father was.