Jill Has a Job, and Other Musings

Since Jill won't tell you about it herself, I might as well mention that she has joined the UW team. Last month, she took a nights-and-weekends gig as Site Coordinator for the UW's CA$H program, which offers free tax-prep assistance to low-income and elderly families and individuals. Just before the program started last weekend, the Program Manager stepped down, at least temporarily (get well, Felix), so Jill took a full-time position managing the program. Starting this Friday, Jill will be in the office most days, which means that I've still never had a full-time, post-college job without an O'Connor woman within 100 feet of my desk.

Meanwhile, we're three weeks into filming, and now that we've got some snow, everything's going as well as can be expected. This weekend, we brought in the pros, and Chuck and Cynthia didn't disappoint, each nailing one day's worth of filming. Expect a release this fall.

Congrats to Peyton Manning and the Colts on their 2004 ALCS-esque win the other night. That was the best NFL game I've seen in six years.

Maine is cold, finally. Very cold.


James A. O'Connor, 1917-2006

My grandfather died on New Year's Eve. I wish I could write about war stories he told me over trips to the ballgame or his account of the depression and how his warnings affected decisions I've made. Instead, I have only snippets of memories of Grandad tending to the cow on the spit at the Oconderosa and telling me that "awesome" had a different meaning to his generation than to mine. As sad as this may be at a time when I need to remember him fondly, the reason our visits tended to be brief and impersonal encapsulates the two defining values that Grandad embodied in his 89 years: work and family.

I learned this week that my grandmother wanted three children. She got seven. He was Catholic.

Grandad was a farmer. I hope to work many full-time jobs in my life without ever having to put in farmers' hours. But farmers' hours weren't always enough to feed and educate a family of nine, so when he had finished his military service, Grandad worked another full-time job, as Maintenance Supervisor at the Nestle factory. Even when he had retired and the family took vacation time and got together, Grandad was always working- herding and deworming and dehorning the cattle and harvesting the corn and mowing acres of lawn and fields. He knew no lifestyle but a hard-working one. He never had a choice.

Back to those seven children. Have you ever known a family with seven children that didn't have at least one outcast? One child inevitably disowns her parents or stops coming to family weddings or adopts a lifestyle of which his parents don't approve, right? My grandfather's seven children, all successful and very busy, live in seven states all over the country, but every one of them was on a plane to dreary Fulton, NY within days of Grandad's death, sharing stories and adulation. Every one of them found time to entertain the next generation of kids and to share anecdotes about Grandad with those too young to have known him well. Every one of them was at my wedding last spring and at my cousin Beth's the previous summer.

These seven children brought, in one way or another, twenty grandchildren into my grandfather's life. The twenty of us are spread all over the country and beyond, some small children, some teens, others in our twenties and thirties, some with families of our own, but we're united by one link: we'd all drop everything for a weekend together at the family farm, especially in honor of Grandad's memory. More than anything, that sense of family speaks to the values my grandparents instilled in us, simply by hosting beef roasts and Christmases, inviting scores of kids and adults into their home for as long as we wanted to stay, and by accepting all of us for what we became- doctors, engineers, educators, traveling salesmen, accountants, jesuits, protestants, unitarians, baseball players, fencers, horseback riders, swimmers, math league champs, parents, foster parents, divorcees, southerners, drinkers, Irishwomen, and Kenyan camp counselors- and embracing these attributes and these decisions.

My father inherited Grandad's work ethic. Whether he's driving hundreds of miles to consult with a paper mill or out in his new garage, hammering nails, he's always working on something. In the family department, he's shaping up to be the proud patriarch his father was, hosting our growing family in the castle he built with a briefcase and an ability to stay awake for a twelve-hour drive.

I never had a long chat with my grandfather about the Super Bowl or 80/20 mortgages or balancing a job and a family. I didn't inherit his willingness to wake up before the sun and get in five hours of manual labor before work. But I do have a vivid picture in my mind of what it means to be a man, a husband, a father, and a friend. And if I ever forget, I still have my dad.