Reflections of a man who just turned 40

Published 9:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

Today I turn 40.

I always thought it would be different. I do not know how different, just different. When you are younger — like in your teens — you think 40 is a world away. Then pow! Here it is.

As I turn 40 there are so many events that have shaped my life and also so many people that have made my life great. I am truly a lucky man and the last 40 years are the reason why.

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I was born today, Nov. 6, in 1968.

My mom, Marilyn, and dad, Richard, were very working-class people in Marquette, Mich., my dad being a career military man and my mom being a stay-at-home mother to six kids and then still working odd jobs when all of us were old enough to watch ourselves and each other.

We never had a new car, but we never went without anything and that was because my mom and dad were awesome providers. When you grow up with five siblings, you never really had that many new clothes either, but we never knew the difference.

In our family we had fun, we played football, baseball, kick the can, hide and seek, flashlight tag, you name it, and we played it until Mom would yell for us to come in at night.

Growing up was fun for sure but not without the occasional fight as sometimes siblings — three boys and three girls — do not always get along. We basically were The Brady Bunch with an edge.

I did the normal stuff growing up such as playing hockey, baseball, football, etc. My parents worked hard and tried to get to as many games as they could, but we understood if they could not make it because of work schedules.

My dad taught us all how to hunt and to respect guns and always eat what you kill or do not kill it. Hunter’s safety was huge in my family and going to camp — cabin if you live in Minnesota — was basically our summer vacation.

Yes, starting out with the family foundation I had certainly helped me with the rest of my life. My mom and dad and sisters and brothers were huge influences on me early in life and still are today. I always hope that I am half the parent to my children that my parents were to me.

When I was a sophomore in high school my dad died. That was a big problem for me because he was my hero and your heroes are not supposed to die. I struggled with staying strong for my mom and just being a teenager. I lost myself in sports and tried not to think about the loss too much, but it bothered me.

In many ways losing my dad probably shaped who I am today more than any other incident because I am always trying to live up to the way he was. He was John Wayne and Atticus Finch all wrapped up into one man.

Living with the thoughts of, “Is he proud of me?” probably drove me and still drives me more than anything else in my life.

I truly miss my dad and that is the one regret in 40 years of life that I have. I would love to have another hour, day or week with him.

With the loss of my dad came responsibility. It was up to me to grow up and, well, man up. I needed to help my mom and get through high school.

This is the part of my life that I learned you can’t do it all.

It was hard because as a teen you know it all and do not always listen to the people that love you the most. I know I tested my mom’s patience during those years as this was the time between balancing work, school and sports that I became acquainted with how much fun alcohol was. I became a partier, and it was fun. It is funny how masking teenage anger about losing a parent can, God willing, give you great perspective later on in life. If you live through some of your demons, you can learn a lot about yourself as a human being. You also learn what you can overcome in life.

After high school I was lucky enough to play college baseball and move away from home to Duluth. Another huge turning point in my life was spending time in Duluth. I learned that not only did I love Duluth and the North Shore, but I really loved Minnesota as well. I did not know it then, but moving back to Minnesota was actually to be in my future.

The next big thing for me, of course, was to get a job, but the truly life-altering event was meeting a beautiful girl named Bonnie Green. Bonnie soon became my bride, and we have had a great life together. The best part of my 40 years on this earth has been with Bonnie and growing and learning about life together. Now anyone who knows about marriage knows it is not always flowers and love songs, but it is the real love and hard work that gets you through. Bonnie has been there in good times and in bad, and that of course brings me to our kids. Bonnie and I have two boys, Brian and Scotty, and a daughter, Tayler. Tayler is the only one still living with us as the two boys are older and have moved out. (As all good children should do)

Tayler is 14 and is a daddy’s girl. I spoil her rotten, but, hey, she is a great kid and I can. Both boys are good boys, too, and have turned into fine young men.

Well, after the birth of Tayler, we moved to the Iron Range and I worked in newspapers. When Tayler was 9, we packed up and moved south to this great town of Albert Lea.

Albert Lea has been great to me and my family, and it is here that I have found what a great team can do to really make a newspaper awesome.

Our team makes me so proud, and I have made some very dear friends at the Tribune.

This last year especially has been almost a synopsis of my 40 years on earth as I got to be a part of some things that were really special.

Last October our team at the Tribune won the Large Business of the Year award from the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce (sorry, Bob). We as a team came together and put a printing press back in Albert Lea. We (Albert Lea Tribune) turned 110 years old and unveiled the new Web site along with printing our 12th Southern Minnesota magazine.

Our team has raised the bar for what a newspaper is and has turned it into a real media company.

Just recently our team was lucky enough to take part in a community team-building exercise in the form of a TV show called “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” We were lucky to be able to help Larson Contracting and its owner, Al Larson, provide a house for the Dirk and Susan DeVries family in Hayward Township.

What a great thing to be part of. I got to witness giving at its best, volunteers skilled and unskilled building a house in 100 hours. More than 1,200 people of all ages coming together to help a family.

It truly was amazing.

Also this year, I traveled a lot. I went to Disney World with Tayler and Bonnie and witnessed so many cool events such as the Epcot Center fireworks around the world display. I traveled to New York on business and took the time to see a Broadway play, “The Lion King,” that was incredible. I saw time square, lady liberty and ground zero.

To top off my travel this year was going to Key West, Fla., and meeting country music performer Kenny Chesney while we were there. The laid-back week spent in the Keys was perfect and another great experience I enjoyed prior to turning 40.

Well, I have to say that again the last 40 years have been very special, and I thank God everyday for all the blessings in my life.

What have I learned over the last 40 years? Well, I learned:

Negative people suck and you cannot let them get you down.

Every day try to laugh and learn something new.

Listen to people — truly listen to what they are saying because you can learn a lot.

Do not surround yourself with yes people.

Lose your ego. I have a favorite little prayer I say everyday and that is Lord, make me less and you more. It helps you stay humble.

Give back because it feels good.

My wife and daughter are darn good teachers.

What have I witnessed over the last 40 years? Well, my favorite memories are:

Fishing in northern Michigan with my brother Tim and watching the most spectacular showing of northern lights I have ever witnessed. Being in the boat watching that showcase was incredible.

Delivering my baby girl Tayler. The doctor was out of the room, and I had to step up. To actually deliver her was watching a miracle happen before your eyes.

Watching my wife laugh.

Fishing in Key West. The water is so light blue it just makes you stop and stare.

The view from the top of the Empire State Building.

Watching my children’s eyes when after a great day together, they are falling asleep and you both know that that day was the best day they ever had. I feel so blessed to be able to provide them those days.

The sunset at the “Extreme Makeover” site, while watching so many people working on the house on that Friday night of the build. It truly took your breathe away.

So, that is my 40 years on earth.

When you’re young, you think it would be great to one day live with four women, and then when you turn 40 you realize you do, but they are your wife, your daughter and your two girl dogs. And the dogs actually have more power in your house than you do.

But I am very content with my role.

Thank you to everyone who walked into my life during the last 40 years, because everyone is an example — some are just bad ones.

Oh, by the way, so everyone knows I still have not changed: Go Packers!

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.