At a few low points in my life, I’ve been sorely tempted to throw up my hands and shout, “I give up”. Instead of doing that, I usually grab a glass of sweet tea, sit on my back patio and recall one of Granny’s long ago lessons. When I was growing up, it was common practice for front porch scholars to use parables, mottos and mantras to teach children to cope with life’s trials and tribulations. My Granny was a master at this and my siblings and I benefitted greatly from it. One of the mottoes Granny used to teach perseverance was ‘keep on keeping on’.
My younger brother, Clay developed a real affinity for this phrase and repeated it often. Hence, I have no doubt that he was saying it during the following incident:
One Mardi Gras season, a group of thugs implemented a ‘snatch and run’ method that they used to steal musical instruments from band members as they marched in the parades. One of these groups ran into my brother’s high school band formation as they marched by and began grabbing instruments. Clay watched in horror as some band members broke rank, clutched their instruments and fled the scene. Others engaged in a tug-of-war with the thugs. A few handed over their instruments with no resistance. Clay stood his ground, raised his clarinet, and wielded it like a club. He bashed in the head of any thug who came within range. Of course, this action rendered the clarinet useless for producing music.
When the melee was over and the band leader assessed the damage, he commented to Clay, “Your clarinet is a wreck. You should have just let them have it.” Clay replied, “Are you nuts? I was taught to keep on keepin on and had no intention of giving up my instrument. So, used it as a weapon and now I’m without an instrument. But, those thugs don’t have it. All they have to show for their efforts are sore heads – not the outcome they planned.”
This incident reinforced Clay’s keep on keeping on way of thinking and it stuck with him for the remainder of his life. No matter what life threw at him (and he encountered some real lulus), he kept on keeping on. He never gave up. He pushed friends and siblings to keep on keeping on. He coached his son, Gary, to keep on keeping on. Today Gary is a strong caring man who is able to cope well with the crazy things happening in this old world and when I’m occasionally referred to as a stubborn old lady, I consider it a compliment.
Clay has now departed this earth and the loss of his companionship makes it very difficult for me to keep on keeping on. But I intend to do just that and to encourage you to keep going and refuse to accept failure as a final answer.
Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV. Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.com. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at firstname.lastname@example.org