the simple truth is our parents can't provide everything for us when we're growing up. there are logistical limitations, time constraints, and personality mismatches. most of our parents do their best and where they don't meet our needs they often aren't really to blame. when we're lucky other folks come in and provide more of what helps make us who we're busy becoming. growing up i was lucky enough to have a lot of these other folks in my life. one of the main ones is a man i now recognize as something like a second father, larry meyer. he and my parents met in college. the story goes that larry was busy pulling pranks much of the time, though i don't think i heard many accounts of him getting caught. eventually he and his wife, and my parents ended up all living in the same town in alaska, and larry and my father taught at the same school too. my mom had grown up in bristol bay, alaska, home to the biggest salmon run in the world. as a result, she'd been commercial fishing almost since birth, being her "grandfather's only boy", as she likes to put it. my father married into the industry, then, and balanced his teaching life in the winters with the fishing life in the summers. by the time my parents had me, their third babe, they needed more help in the fishery and so larry became my mom's right hand man. (my dad drift nets, while the rest of the family set nets. larry became a setnetter.)
the gifts larry brought to the family fishing operation are numerous. his meticulous nature provided thorough organization to the equipment, the approach, and the timing of the operation. machinery, if broken, was quickly fixed, and NEVER broke due to something that could have been prevented like rust or wear. the safety factor for my family's fishing crew was high and reliable thanks to larry's dedication. when i became old enough to start fishing too at the age of 9 larry carried a high level of patience in his approach to teaching me basic skills and putting me through the paces. i thank him for always carrying that calm presence into what were often high pressure situations.
one of my main memories of the meyer's house growing up was the calendar they kept in the bathroom. the calendar stood out to me as important because on each day were small marks of numbers denoting the mileage larry had put in that day running. by the end of each year he'd have a tally of miles run, and now still decades into the project he can tell you how many miles he ran, say, in the 1980's, for example. i admire still his thoroughness. i also have a fondness for the construction i got to witness on the meyer's home as i was growing up. larry built a small shop complete with saw, lumber, and innumerable tools, and then he used the shop to remodel, and expand the family home. as a result, the meyer family--maw, paw, and two kids, plus different dogs over the years--was able to comfortably stretch in the same home all the decades i've been alive. there is a kind of richness to life in one place like that and i am grateful to rest in it everytime i go back to visit them there.
one of the greatest blessings of my adult life was realizing that my having grown up to develop my own interests meant i'd also grown into a person that could converse like friends with larry. i'd aged enough to interact with him not just as a father figure, but as an intellectual confidant too. larry taught jr. high level social studies as his career. then, post retirement, he dedicated his life to continued study and reading on western religions. when i return to alaska now we are able to discuss his interest on the matter in a way i know both of us appreciate.
i am grateful to have gotten to have a connection with larry meyer that reaches over the duration of my life thus far. it's a precious gift to be guided in growth by a steady mentoring figure, and then to reach a stage when something more like a friendship can develop too. larry is one of the people that helped provide the landscape of my life, and thus has helped make me who i am today.