“Daddy’s hand weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand…there was always love in daddy’s hands.” I can’t get this song out of my head when I think about my dad. It represents my Dad, Jim St. George, because of how hard he worked to provide for his family. The song reminds me of how strong he was. I remember his hands. They were strong and nails were dirty. My dad didn’t verbally express his love to us. But, I knew he loved me. He showed me his love by how he paid attention to me even despite how busy he was. He instilled values like responsibility and respect. He liked us around. As adults, he loved to sit and talk with us about anything we wanted to talk about and he had much to add. As I got older, I brought up more difficult subjects. Subjects about my daughters, how they were struggling and how I was feeling about those situations. He was willing to talk about it and didn’t shy away or pacify me.
My dad passed away over a year ago. I think about how his hugs evolved over the years. From a one-armed strong side squeeze with a couple of extra tight squeezes to full hugs and a kiss on the cheek. He told me he loved me a few weeks before he passed away. It meant so much to me to hear that. He showed his love through time spent visiting and talking, whether inside on his recliner or outside as he was working on a project, he loved to talk.
As children, he would gather us up to go outside. I am the oldest of three. My sister would get bundled up, but she usually got cold and went in. My brother, was four years younger than me. During those years, I just don’t remember him outside working with us until he was a pre-teen. Dad brought us outside to work on tasks such as stacking wood, mowing the lawn, washing his vehicle, tending to the gardens. I really remember stacking wood, lots of wood! I wish I had a photo of the stacks of wood. There was so much!
In the summer one time, we traveled to a local farm to get manure for the gardens. There was something about that trip that stuck with me. Probably the smell! In the spring, we planted the gardens, and in the fall, we harvested by hand. We picked corn, lots of corn. Oh the bugs! The little cuts on my skin from the corn husks, and the itchy skin. Then there was the lawn, the mowing of the lawn. My dad loved to clear land and make more grass to mow. And, he didn’t buy a riding lawn mower until all of us kids moved out. Ha!
In the winter, as you know if you’re from Duluth, we get tons of snow. Throughout the years, my dad had various rigs for plowing and hauling. I loved sitting in this particular big rig my dad for snowplowing. It was so tall, and sitting in it made you feel on top of the world. It was amazing!!
My dad loved to be outside. We also had great times snowmobiling at the cabin on the lake and in the paths through the woods and swamps. I don’t own a snowmobile as an adult, but I can still imagine riding it. Now, I have the best memories. My closest connection with him is when I am working outside, or if it’s nighttime, and I look up to the sky on a starry night. That’s my special time. He taught me many things about being strong and working hard, and I’m thankful for that.
Small Business Owner
When I was in about 3rd grade, my dad became a small business owner. He bought a vacuum sales and repair business, Midwest Vacuum. He eventually added sewing machine sales and repair, and it became Midwest Vacuum & Sewing Center. As a small business owner, he was responsible, honest, and seemed to enjoy being his own boss. My parents both worked at the store for many years. My mom did a lot of the sewing machine sales and sewing classes. It was during that time that I started working in the repair room with my dad. He taught me how to tear down old vacuums, clean and paint them up, and put them back together for resale. When I was a young adult, he taught me about the new vacuums. That way, I could sub for him on an occasional Saturday at the shop so he could go to the cabin. I was so excited and proud when I sold a vacuum! In the earlier days, I know it wasn’t easy for him to make ends meet. Being a small business owner and relying on the business for income to pay the bills was difficult at times. Eventually, my mom took a job at St. Luke’s and that helped with the overall finances of the home. She retired from her position in medical records. I know that when my dad retired, he was really ready too.
When I became an adult, and my siblings also moved out of the house, my parents slowly made that transition to empty nesters. I know the transition wasn’t easy. Changes in their relationship had to be made. But, as we watched them grow and change, we could see the transformation. They began vacationing each year and loved it. Eventually, closer to retirement, they bought land in Florida and slowly built each part of the property until they had a house. I was very happy for them. They were frugal and made a lot of things happen for themselves to make their retirement as they wanted. I haven’t inherited that discipline to be as frugal as them. I am still trying.
I Could Do Anything
Because of my dad…and my mom, I have the courage and mindset that I can do anything I set my mind to. Sometimes, both or one of my parents wouldn’t agree with my ideas. There were rare moments that my dad didn’t think I should do something. I can’t remember a specific issue, but I know it happened. My mom would say, “Prove him wrong.” I’m sure whatever that thing was, he was probably trying to protect me in some way.
I believe we have to figure out and break through despite the odds and do whatever is hard and unconventional, especially for women. I do not see the boundaries when it comes to gender, work and reaching goals, whatever they are. I don’t believe in just going with the status quo. And, I thank the combination of my parents for that mindset. That mindset helped me with my decision to start college at 27 with two kids. I attained my bachelor and grad school degrees by 35 years old.
As an adult, I naturally have a project in process all the time. Some people try to tell me there’s something wrong with that. Like as if I can’t sit still. I’ll rest when I need to rest, and I do! We all have 24 hours in a day. I am strategic as to how I use them. Inspiration moves me. Energy helps too! I love feeling that passion for life. It’s motivating. It sucks to lose that inspiration. But, life is not all glitter, rainbows and unicorns. I wish, but life has thrown a few darts. When life turns, I lose that spark. When I think on those moments or spaces in time, I view them as space in time that demands me to slow down. I believe in God, and I know He holds me close. Those spaces of time, He is holding me tighter, and I lean in. I wait on Him to bring that passion back to my life. Times like the death of any family members, especially my dad and my daughter, Emily, have been the most difficult. Balance is hard to find. Daily doing what you love, working hard, taking time for yourself, spending time with loved ones and rest is the key.
In the End
Sometimes grief, feelings and words are a messy thing and it’s difficult to organize them onto paper. There are so many memories of my Dad. These are just a few of the ones rolling around in my head. I miss him so much, and still have a hard time believing he is gone when I look at photos. He was so strong, loud and present. I look forward to the moment in time when I get to see him again along with my daughter, Emily and many others we have lost over the years. Until then, I will do all that I can to live a life full of responsibility, meaningfulness, and rest.