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LESSONS FROM

Written By Anna Taylor

there are people in each of our lives that have influenced who we are today. Our family, friends, teachers, neighbors — even characters in books and movies — have all helped to mold and shape who we are as individuals. We become hybrids of their different values and personalities, affecting how we think, how we act, and how we live. For some, these influences have always been apparent and obvious; for others, they go unnoticed or unrecognized. For me, it took time.

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L ESSONS FROM G R ANDDAD

like many children , i grew up hearing the numerous stories of my grandfather.

And, like many children, I was not always the keenest of audiences. To me it seemed he could find a lesson in every situation or activity. As a child, I summarized most of it into one word: boring. Rolling my eyes and fidgeting in my seat, I would listen to a seemingly endless supply of anecdotes and life lessons. I dreaded these lectures that required me to be so still and attentive. Needless to say, I was not a patient child. However, years have passed since those days and I now find myself looking at these stories with a new perspective. What used to bore me now inspires me; what I once considered to be a nuisance or a chore I now see as one of the greatest gifts of all.

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y grandfather never had anything

My grandfather then attended Acadia University, lo-

handed to him. Born to a working

cated about seventy miles from his home – a notable

family on a farm in rural Nova Sco-

distance for the time. There he studied many different

tia, there were many obstacles to overcome. While there

subjects and became increasingly inspired and motivat-

was always food on the table, there wasn’t an abundance

ed. Upon his graduation from Acadia, he still wasn’t sat-

of anything. Everything they had was earned through

isfied. He was determined to learn more. He enrolled at

hard work and dedication. If you had told him then he

Dalhousie University and began studying law. He had

would one day be named a Supreme Court Justice, I’m

found his calling. He completed the program in 1953,

not sure he would have believed you.

returned home, and married my grandmother in 1955.

My grandfather’s education began in a one-room school-

It was there, in the small rural town of New Germany,

house down the road from his home. While he was not

that he opened his own local practice. He eventually

always the most disciplined student, over time he de-

joined the Provincial Court as a judge at the age of

veloped a fierce desire for knowledge. At this school, he

thirty-three. After thirty more years of service, he was

was inspired by what he learned about the world. It was

honored with the position of Justice on the Supreme

also here that he met a girl – a girl I would one day

Court. When he retired from work in 2005 he had been

call my grandmother. My grandfather began dreaming

serving for forty-two years – the current record for lon-

about his future, and what possibilities lay before him.

gest time served.

When he had completed his coursework, he finished at

Due to my grandfather’s hard work and complete dedi-

that rural schoolhouse. However, he decided he wasn’t

cation, he was able to make his dreams come true. Not

finished; his educational journey was just beginning.

only was he able to provide for his family, but he also

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Granddad as a young boy. My grandparent’s wedding day. The first family portrait. Granddad, Grade 11. Granddad on the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

opened countless doors of opportunity. He was able to travel across the country as well as the world, to see the places he had previously only read and dreamt about. My grandfather’s story never ceases to amaze me. Born on a rural farm during the Great

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Depression, the odds were never in his favor. How unlikely it was that a small-town farm-boy would eventually see the other coast of his country, let alone the other side of the world. He never let those obstacles get in his way; he never let anyone tell him it couldn’t be done. When I was young I couldn’t grasp the significance of what he

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L ESSONS FROM G R ANDDAD

had accomplished. As I have grown and now begin my

I next walked on the Great Wall of China. Later,

own journey, I can understand the towering magnitude

while in Hangzhou, I climbed up on the roof and

of those obstacles. I have been taught many different

looked out over that beautiful City of Lakes. She

things about life over the years, and these lessons have

was a great teacher.

come from countless different people. However, I’m not sure I could point out anyone who has taught me more than him.

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In the letter, my grandfather apologized if I found his story boring. At one time that might have been true, except this time I felt the exact opposite. It is one of

ne of the most important lessons my

my most treasured stories he has ever shared with me,

grandfather ever taught me was to value

and I have read it over countless times. That story has

my education. He has shown me the

countless possibilities that can come from learning all you can. While my grandfather wasn’t always the most

dedicated of students, he eventually learned the value of a good education. He once wrote to me with me this story, of a teacher who inspired him to think differently. In school Anna, I was a great dreamer. The teacher taught us geography where she told us about Balbo travelling across the American nation to the blue Pacific, where he threw a rock out into the water. That startled my interest. I thought how great it would be to throw a rock and watch it splash in the blue water. She also read about the Great Wall of China. What a feat I thought it would be to walk there. She also read about the city of Hangzhou, which Marco Polo said was the most beautiful city in the whole world. I never forgot that. In 1984, when I was now about 40, I had the chance to go to China. Before I left I went down to Cherry Hill and picked up a rock. I carried it all the way to the West Coast. On the ferry to Victoria I dropped my rock in the blue Pacific and watched it splash.

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1 Myself as a child, waiting for my turn to graduate. 2 My grandfather upon his law school graduation. 3 One of countless handwritten letters, received from my granddad. 4 Three generations, celebrating my cousin’s law school graduation. 5 A proud grad, celebrating my accomplishment.

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places he’s seen. Like my grandfather, I didn’t always take my studies so seriously. However, as I have grown and learned from him, I now know that it is one of the most important things I will ever gain.

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hrough the years, my grandfather has also shown me the real value of hard work. Growing up on a farm, he knows the true

meaning of this. It was not an easy life. If the chores weren’t done, the animals not fed or their crops not

tended to, they wouldn’t have had the things they needed. He learned from a young age that hard work wasn’t inspired me, and reminded me of the teachers that

an option; it was a way of life.

made an impact on my life.

I will never forget the summer my grandfather taught

My grandfather reminds me of what a strong education

me to waterski. I was young, maybe eight or nine, yet I

can do for you. He has shown me that it is important to be knowledgeable of the wonderful world that we live in. It was my grandfather’s pursuit of education that allowed him to do the things he’s done, and to see the

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was determined to learn the sport the rest of my family so enjoyed. So, one day, my grandfather took down the skis and we headed out into the lake. I got the skis on my feet, the tow-bar in my hands – I was ready to go.

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1–2 Waterskiing, now and then. 3 Granddad, hard at work shearing Christmas trees. 4 Granddad and son, cultivating the island.

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My grandfather gave me the signal, and started off in

the rope tightened, and I began to stand, I braced my-

the boat. The rope tensed, I began to stand, wobble and

self for the fall. But then, something amazing happened.

fall. We repeated this several times, slowly making our

Not only did I stand up, but I stayed standing. I looked

way down the lake. This was harder than I’d imagined.

around wildly with astonishment. I skied behind the

After several attempts, I was done. I had water in my

boat, all the way around the island, and back to the

eyes, in my ears, and up my nose. I hurt from falling. I

cabin. It was my first successful ski, and I was on top of

was ready to quit.

the world. I know now, that if my grandfather had let

I pleaded with my grandfather to haul me into the boat. “Take me home!” I demanded. He wasn’t having it. He said that I wanted to ski, and if I gave up I would never be able to say I did. I didn’t care; I had had enough. I continued to pout, bobbing up and down in the water in my bright orange life jacket, hot tears coming down

I always put life like climbing a mountain... the view from the top is grand and the air, though thin, is fresh with only so few making it. me quit, I never would have experienced that feeling. But he didn’t let me give up; he knew that I could do it.

my face. What a sight I must have been. After several

I’m not sure I’ve ever thanked him for that.

minutes of this, he asked if I was ready to try again. I re-

My grandfather has shown me that anything is possible,

luctantly agreed, thinking in my head how unfair, how downright awful, it was that he was making me do this. Despite my objections, I took the tow-bar back into my hands, and readied myself for another failure. He gave me the signal, and took off in the boat once more. As

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with enough work and determination. He has taught me to set goals, no matter how high, and to never give up until I achieve them. This is how he has lived his life. While the road was not always easy, and the end not always in sight, he had faith that he would someday see

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L ES S O N S F RO M G RA N D D A D

the benefits. Once, in a letter, he described to me the

plishing your goals. He has taught me that if you want

value that comes from this dedication.

something bad enough, and are willing to work hard

Your job should be a pleasure. I never went to work wishing I could stay home. Mind you, there were some hard decisions and some trying and tough times, but oh when you conquered them, the pleasure it gave. I always put life like climbing a mountain, and when I got to the minor peaks it was great to look out over. I’m still working on the higher peaks with the better view. Have a great year. The view from the top is grand and the air, though thin, is fresh with only so few making it. Enjoy the view.

enough, you can make anything possible.

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nother lesson I have learned from my grandfather, is waste not want not. It may seem cliché, but it is a truth he has lived his entire

life. Growing up during the Great Depression, he never lived a life of excess. Although times have changed, he has continued to live his life under this philosophy.

I don’t believe my grandfather has ever wasted a single thing in his life. He takes pride in caring for his possessions, and never spends his hard-earned money in

How true, I thought, is this statement. Though my

a loose or frivolous fashion. He and my grandmother

life has been short, I have seen my share of obstacles.

still live in the humble home they purchased when they

Through these stories and lessons of my grandfather,

married almost sixty years ago. Although their finan-

I’ve learned to never let these hurdles stand in my way.

cial situation probably would have allowed a larger, and

Instead of getting discouraged, I’ve found a way to find

flashier home, there was never a need for it. My grand-

inspiration and motivation from these complications.

father still uses the original Land Rover he purchased

Instead of giving up, I’ve worked harder to make my

decades ago for working his land, and towing the boats.

dreams a reality. By doing this I’ve found him to be so

I learned to ski behind the same boat, on the same skis,

incredibly right; there is no better feeling than accom-

that my mother and her siblings did. Although newer,

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Even in retirement, there is always work to be done, improving and maintaining the land.


more modern models of all these things have become available, he never saw the need to upgrade. He believes that if something breaks, fix it. If it cannot be repaired, only then do you look into purchasing something new. He has shown me that if you take care of your possessions, they have the potential to last a lifetime. He has also shown me that earning money takes time and hard work, so you need to be careful in

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f all the stories I’ve heard from my grandfather, my personal favorite has always been the year the rabbits took over. Decades ago when my grandfather purchased the island, one thing he thought it lacked was wildlife. How nice it would be, he thought, to have some animals on the island. And so, in the fall he purchased rabbits and set them free on the land. Little did he know the havoc that would ensue.

the way you choose to spend it. As a child, I was always made to clean up my toys and make sure they were stored properly. He would tell me that unless I did so, they would not be there the next time I wanted them. Although it seemed silly, and a

When he landed on the island’s shore the next spring, he was astonished at what he found. Hundreds of rabbits ran wild over the land, consuming everything in sight. Any vegetation within their reach had been devoured. The island was in a state of bunny chaos, and something had to be done.

nuisance at the time, I now see the importance of that

My grandfather and the children spent days rounding up the rabbits. What a circus it must have been. The above photo shows my grandfather, triumphant over two of his captures.

tremely important value.

This story never ceases to make me smile. While I find the story hysterical, it has also taught me a valuable lesson: it’s okay to make mistakes. As careful as you try to be, everyone messes up now and again. I, for one, have had more than my fair share of “oops” moments. Although this story is a rather small error in the grand scheme of life, I’ve found that it applies to almost all situations. Things aren’t always going to go your way; life will through you curve balls. It’s all about how you handle them. It’s important to keep a level head and find a solution to the problem at hand. You can’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by your mistakes. Instead, try and learn from them. This is what my grandfather has always done, and I can assure you that no rabbits will be found on the island again.

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lesson. I’ve learned that if you buy only the things you need, and take care of the things you buy, you will never be without something you need. I believe this is an ex-

We currently live in a disposable culture; a culture where the most important thing is having the newest technology, and following the latest trends. Although this lifestyle is tempting, I do my best to resist. This

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is because I’ve seen the benefits of doing so, and it is

I have learned that I need to value my education, for it

something I believe our society needs to be reminded of.

is my ticket to a better and brighter future. I have also

My grandfather has shown me that if you’re economical and conscious with your spending, you will want for nothing. I have seen this truth with him and my grandmother. By spending only what was necessary, taking care of what they bought, and saving the rest, they have been able to live a comfortable and fulfilled life, even in retirement. Not only have they had enough for themselves, but have been generous enough to share the excess with their family. I can only hope to one day be as fortunate.

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learned that this education does not stop in the classroom, and I should never cease to strive for knowledge. There is always something to learn, and something to gain. I have learned that working hard will open doors I never thought possible, and to never let anything stand in the way of my dreams. He has taught me that when I do these things, and if I am careful with the benefits they give me, I will be able to lead a happy and comfortable life. My grandfather started at the bottom. From a farm-

uring my lifetime, my grandfather has taught me so much about life. While these lessons I’ve shared have had great

importance, they only begin to scratch the surface of

what he has shown me. I see my grandparents as two of

the most important people in my life. I have no doubt that without them, I wouldn’t be close to the person

house all the way to the courthouse, his journey has been incredible. He worked each and everyday to reach the goals he set for himself. He overcame innumerable obstacles and setbacks, and eventually came out on top. No matter what problems he encountered along the way, he never gave up. And, because of him, neither will I.

I am today. They have supported me unconditionally, through the many ups and downs of my life. I feel so fortunate to have had such a strong team standing behind me, cheering me on along the way.

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3 1 My grandfather with his Land Rover, still in use today. 2 The first flag raising on the island. 3–5 Candid moments with my grandfather over the years.

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Lessons From Granddad  

A project from Mark Jamra's Advanced Typographic Design class at Maine College of Art, 2013.

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