Here & there: Waking Ned Devine in real life

A cottage featured prominently in the movie, "Waking Ned Divine," Niarbyl, Isle of Man, Sept. 17, 2003 | Photo by Joseph Mischyshyn via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

FEATURE — My husband was run off Interstate 40 by an 18-wheeler during a snow storm a few winters ago.

As a result, he spun 540 degrees and crashed into a pole facing oncoming traffic. In near white-out conditions.

To make a bad situation worse, my husband was on a call at the time of the crash – his friend, Steve, an audio witness to the events. Which sounded horrific.

That call went dead early in the centrifugal motion of the crash when it slammed against the passenger side window and broke. Steve’s many attempts to re-engage the call went unanswered and left him utterly rattled.

His next call was to me to 1) report that my husband was in grave danger; and 2) to tell me to call the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

Spoiler alert: my husband didn’t die that night. Thankfully.

He Macgyvered his way out of the perilous situation using a tow rope and the light pole into which he’d crashed to pry the bent fender off his front wheel in order to drive home.

But neither Steve nor I knew that for several more hours.

It wasn’t until said husband walked in the door, exhausted but surprisingly unharmed, and with the front bumper of his little red pickup truck nearly dragging on the road, that our worst fears melted.

Weeks later, Alan and I had chalked up the experience to yet another near miss in his adventurous cat-like life (I won’t go into all the others here). Steve, however, was still traumatized.

He insisted on throwing a small “funeral” for Alan, a la Waking Ned Devine, where he and some of their closest friends could swap Alan stories and laugh and cry together.

Alan reported it was the most enjoyable funeral he’d ever been to.

Not just because all the stories were all about him but because it celebrated life, friendship and love without the whole death part. And without any real justification.

My father turned 80 this week. Eight whole decades of life, love and friendship.

He’s not a man who would ever submit to a Waking-Ned-Devine-style funeral though. In spite of the long list of hosts who would jump at the chance. He’s way too introverted for that. And, plus, he’d say he hasn’t had any near-death experiences to justify it, anyway.

So, dad, precisely because you wouldn’t allow it in person, I’m doing it here. In print.

I guess I should begin and end this “funeral service” with an exposition on the Rules According to Don Boden (aka my dad).

My dad has lived his 80 years by a code of unwritten rules. Rules he may claim don’t exist. But rules I’ve seen in action. And rules that have resulted in a life of kindness, wisdom, patience and real deep-down-to-the-core decency.

Rule No. 1: Stop a habit if it becomes too expensive. My dad chewed Big Red gum so often when I was little, I thought the interior of every silver Scirocco smelled like a cinnamon scratch-and-sniff. And then one day he simply stopped. The reason? Big Red went up to $.30 and he thought it was too expensive to justify. But it wasn’t just the Big Red. It was like that with anything that became too “expensive.” He’d evaluate it against his previous commitments – namely his family – and if he thought it took more of his time, energy and attention than could be justified, he let it go.

Rule No. 2: You can be dead right or dead wrong, but you’re still dead. This gem made its way into every single one of my dad’s at-home driving lessons. As in, having the right of way isn’t the only thing on the road. Even if you’re “right,” you can end up getting hurt, or dead, if you’re not paying attention to others. And that’s good advice. But I’m pretty sure he also meant our rightness matters less than our wholeness. And the wholeness of others. In the larger sense. Because that’s what I’ve seen in action – a political discussion with my dad never gets too heated because he listens to the other person’s ideas and perspective. Even if he disagrees. Especially if he disagrees.

Rule No. 3: Be early. Be seen. Be gone. My dad is usually the first to arrive at a party – and the first to leave. He’s not a fan of big events, preferring a quiet night at home instead. But he understands that when someone invites you to something like that, it’s important to show up for them. So, he shows up, makes a point to seek out the people who need seeing, genuinely connects with them, and then he leaves. He doesn’t need to be the most important man in the room. He just needs to make sure that the person who invited him knows they are important to him.

Rule No. 4: Read everything. As his crowded home library and nightstand will attest, read everything you can get your hands on. Sometimes at the same time. People, places, history and science are interesting and important. The more you learn, the better you are.

Rule No. 5: It’s better to leave wanting more than to go when you’ve had enough. For one glorious week every summer, we vacationed at Lake Tahoe as a family. It was the most magical week of my life: jet skiing, crawdad hunting, hiking to Emerald Bay, walking to Tahoma market by myself, floating the Truckee River together. But it always came to an end and my siblings and I begged our parents for one more week. Without fail, my dad would tell us it was better to leave wanting more than to go when we’d had enough. Because of that, we never tired of Tahoe; it stayed magical. That philosophy of conservation – even with experiences – has permeated his life. He isn’t greedy. He takes the minimum amount, savors it and leaves the rest to enjoy another time. Except for chocolate chip cookies. For those, the man has a zero-conservation philosophy.

Rule No. 6: The Beach Boys can make everything better: Driving 12 hours one way in a conversion van with five children to Utah isn’t exactly fun. But my dad did it almost every summer. He took the trip as an opportunity to listen to the Beach Boys Sounds of Summer album. On repeat: Little Deuce Coupe; Help Me Rhonda; Be True to Your School; California Girls. I can still hear him singing along. And he never really sang anywhere else. I suppose the singing made the arduous drive less so – and it showed how he approached anything difficult, really: do what you need to do and find a way to be happy about it.

And finally, Rule No. 7: Wear spandex when required: A handful of years ago at a family reunion in Park City, my mom organized an un-talent show. Everyone had to participate. Including my father. Who, as a retired judge and still-practicing attorney, is the beacon of decorum and has spent at least 85% of his life in a dark suit and tie. And who has never worn spandex – until my mother asked him to participate in an “un-yoga” act with her. It was important to my mom even if it was not important to him, so he obliged. But that’s how their relationship works: when something is important to one of them, the other one shows up. In spandex if necessary.

And that’s a beautiful thing. All of it is, really. Like the lessons of a real-life Mr. Miyagi. Simple, important and true.

So, to my dad, thank you for living so beautifully and so well. And for teaching us to do the same. Thank you for wearing spandex even when you didn’t want to. And thank you (I mean this very seriously considering the man I married), for not having any near-death experiences to officially warrant the Waking-Ned-Devine Funeral Service you just got.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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