Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Working For His Family

A little over a year ago, I had the misfortune of writing about the passing of my grandmother. It was, as these things always are, incredibly sad, and I debated whether or not it was even worth bringing up. But I'm a talker, and I wanted to take a moment to say how wonderful she was, so I did. And that was that.

Then, a month later, my wife's maternal grandmother died. I never had the chance to meet her, so I didn't have any personal stories I could relate. But family's important, and I felt compelled to mention it. Plus, I was a little spooked about two grandparents dying a month apart, so I wrote with the great hope that I wouldn't have to do that again for a while.

Clair's paternal grandfather died at the beginning of last week. He was a month shy of his 96th birthday, and had been in poor health for quite some time, so this certainly didn't come as a surprise. If anything, knowing he was ailing was a bit of a blessing, because it allowed Clair to take time to be with him in his final days.

Happily, I did meet Ted Clairmont, and while he initially came across as very quiet and a little sullen, I found that if you could engage him in conversation, he had a wealth of stories. He was an educator, teaching science and band. (When I googled him last week, I was surprised and delighted to discover that he was a charter member of the North Dakota Music Educators Association Hall of Fame.) If I understood him correctly, he also served as the rough equivalent of school district superintendent. The twist was that Ted Clairmont was a Catholic, and the community's Catholics and Lutherans were always at odds over who was in charge. So the deal was struck: A Catholic would be in charge one year, then a Lutheran would be in charge the next. I was dumbfounded: Palestine. Northern Ireland. Sarajevo. Walhalla, North Dakota.

Clair's grandparents were not well enough to come to our wedding, so we went to them. Up in Alexandria, Minnesota, we had a short ceremony where a priest blessed our marriage, and then Ted and Hazel did the same. At the time, I thought it was very sweet. Upon reflection, I see that it was very profound. Two people with lifetimes of love and experience bestowing upon us their hopes and their confidence in our ability to live up to them. Kinda humbling. It's the kind of thing we didn't get to do with my grandmother, and while I have no doubt that she would have approved, it's nice that we don't have to assume with Clair's family.

Evidently, it's starting to come out that Ted did a lot of work in his lifetime to provide for his family. In addition to teaching (because there has never been a time when teaching paid all the bills, apparently, he sold shoes. He sold gumball machines. He inspected wheat. As you might expect from a man who came of age during the Great Depression, he never stopped working. So it's perfectly in keeping that he spent his last years caring for his wife, who lost her vision and couldn't get around on her own anymore.

Working for his family. That's what Ted Clairmont did, and he never stopped in 95 years. I'm honored to call him family, and awfully glad I met him.

Theodore "Ted" Clairmont


MacArthur said...

Shane, SI has an opening now that Steve Rushin has left. It is your time.

I know that this column wasn't necessarily sports related, but it reminded me once again that you need to be printed in black/white on glossy paper.