My father was an endless source of amusement, and I mean that kindly.
He always had a joke to tell, a funny story, or did something to make me laugh. He could take the two parts of whatever it was that I was crying over and make them whole again. He could fix anything from the tiny earring post to a motor. He taught me the value of epoxy glue and needle nose pliers. He taught me to tinker with things until they worked.
He also taught me to play with worms because he didn’t ever want a boy to scare me with a worm or a toad, apparently something he’d witnessed, or maybe did, as a boy himself. He had endless patience. I don’t ever remember him raising his voice to me, but I do remember the bewildered look on his face when I burst into tears once when he was trying to help me do my math homework.
He would take me sledding in the valley behind our house. It seemed to me that we’d be out there for hours, and I have no idea what he did while I went up and down the hills, but he never seemed bored. I imagine the woods reminded him of the woods of his youth in Minnesota.
He believed in education. He believed in philanthropy. He was kind, he was generous. He believed in working hard.
I imagine some of the hardships he faced growing up on a farm helped shape him. His grandfather was killed by a team of runaway horses when he was plowing with a single blade saw; the reins were secured up under his arms when the horses took off and pulled him into the plow. My father’s father also died from a farming accident when operating a circular saw, powered by a Model T motor; he was pulled into the flywheel. My father had just turned 93 in 2013 when he died suddenly. He often attributed his health and longevity to his rugged early life.
Jay Edward Nerva was a stout Finn. Once he told me that there wasn’t a word for Love in Finn, not in the way that we use the word now. You’d never say “I love hot dogs” or “I just love these new shoes.” The word, or the concept of love, I guess, was reserved for the feelings between a couple in the Finnish language. He was affectionate, and his love for me was expressed in the way his eyes lit up every time he saw me, even though I don’t ever remember him telling me he loved me. There was no reason to say the words. I knew.