LIFE’S LESSONS
“A Successful Collection of Failures”

Sample Stories

PREFACE

This book contains many of our family’s stories. Our family members from all sides, both distant and close, have commented over the years on the predominance of two major characters: Ted and Rick. Some have said, “like father, like son” but this cliché does not give justice to their uncanny ability to find themselves in some sort of trouble—together and on their own. We are the authors of this book.

Although we have both been known to be impatient at times, we did not start writing until Ted had had a health scare. In October of 1992, he was diagnosed with skin cancer. Concerns for his health were compounded when it was discovered that a dermatologist had repeatedly misdiagnosed the melanoma and Ted had been living with this condition unnecessarily for two years. The lesion was removed from the back of his leg, but in 1998, doctors advised him that the cancer had returned and spread to his lymph nodes in his upper left thigh. Ted was scheduled for an operation to test and remove all cancerous lymph nodes within this area.

The situation was grave and it motivated Ted to consider the various unique heirlooms he had inherited over the years from the estates of earlier generations. He wanted to be involved in the process of distributing them to his family. Being the closest geographically, Rick, the oldest of three sons, was the first to learn of Ted’s intentions. Despite most of the items being valuable antiques, Rick was not willing to store such “junk.” And, citing their lack of practical use, declined the offer.

Some time later, after the concerns for Ted’s health had lessened, Rick approached Ted at his home and announced, “I’ve figured out what you can leave me.” Ted, delighted with Rick’s apparent change of heart, sat in anticipation and admired the cherished family keepsakes around the room. He was anxious to divest himself of the many special articles that littered his new downsized home, but Rick responded, “I want your stories.” It was time to write the book.

Although both of us have been known to offer the long version of any event we are asked to recount, almost everyone who has heard either of us recite a family story or two has encouraged us to write a book. At times, our efforts to educate thoroughly have been mistakenly viewed as a selfish opportunity to boast, rather than a willingness to share. Regrettably, this perception is reinforced when a spirited desire to be understood manifests itself in the form of otherwise unnecessary details. However, we each blame the previous generation, believing that we came by this honestly…this is who we are.

In some cases our stories will read more like a documentary or a report rather than a narrative. This is because this book was first intended to serve merely as chronicles for our families. It was not until the later stages of the project that the possibility of publishing them was considered. However, once we started working, we both enjoyed spending this extra time together, and later, writing our book became an obsession.

We suggest that reading it should be enjoyed like strong drink. Massive quantities taken in one night may prove to be too much, too quick—and altogether overwhelming. If you begin to feel your senses numbing, we suggest you take a break. Digesting relatively smaller doses of our seemingly unbelievable foolhardiness may help make your reading experience that much more pleasurable.

Many of the stories that follow were quite painful at the time. Although we can laugh at ourselves, the recalling of some still penetrates our core, causing us to relive the pain. Our book consists solely of true stories. However, we have sought out the humour in each situation and have told them in this vein. In fact, the writing of this book has proven to be cathartic and therapeutic for both of us. Hence, there has been no need for embellishment, nor have we succumbed to such a temptation.

We both knew that we had learned much from the various escapades of our younger years. But, well before the stories were written, we recognised that even just listing them together tended to paint a different picture. Both of us appeared to be meandering through life as if we were a couple of imbeciles. Our problem was that all of these stories were true. (They still are.)

In addition, we felt that every tale begged justification— especially in its written form. So, after each one, we added a tag line to reflect what our father-and-son team feel is the moral of the story. We call them our Life’s Lessons.

Our main difficulty was not so much recording the incidents, but rather having some sort of flow from one story to the next. In the past, we could sit around the dinner table casually telling one after the other, and it was easy to tie one major problem into the next. However, in written form, jumping from one time period to another is confusing. Also, our family and friends would only need a slight introduction to the tale before we could begin, primarily because they were all familiar with our family members and many a previous story.

You, however, are at a disadvantage. It can be difficult to grasp the significance of a given situation when you were not at our last family dinner. Therefore, in an effort to share our Life’s Lessons publicly, we decided to do what many dinner guests have requested: “Just start at the beginning.”

For this reason, we have structured the material primarily in chronological order. As patriarch, Ted’s stories compose Part One, and Rick’s those of Part Two. Various time periods in both of their lives each become a chapter in their part of the book. Hence, Ted’s stories begin in his childhood and continue through his marriage and fatherhood, and then into his second marriage. Then, Rick relates stories from his early childhood, adolescence, and fatherhood.

You cannot tell the players without a program. So, for your assistance we have devised a simplified visual aid in the form of a Fearnley family-tree, commencing with Thomas Fearnley, Ted’s father. You will note that the last arrow falls to Rick’s son, Andrew Fearnley, who is currently displaying the behavioural traits characteristic of the mutant gene needed for creating enough material for the next book in this series.

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