My immediate family didn’t start giving each other hugs or saying “I love you” until I was an adult, not long before both my parents passed away.
It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other. Displays of affection were not part of the DNA of everyday life where I was raised in central Nebraska. The weather was swelteringly hot and humid or bitingly cold and damp. No one ever dared slow down long enough to enjoy a hot cup of coffee on the porch as the sun came up. Everything evolved around work, which usually had something to do with agriculture.
For example, the Moravec/Faaborg household (mine) didn’t have indoor pets, and neither did most of our neighbors. Most dogs stayed outside to protect property or livestock, and cats—some of which were just as bad-ass as the dogs—needed to stay outside to keep the rodent population in check.
Everything and everyone had a purpose, which had something to do with eking out a living. Crops were planted in the spring, then in the summer it was time for irrigating, playing softball and drinking beer. In the fall you hopefully collected a harvest paycheck that covered all the expenses, then frigid, slippery winters were spent fixing everything that got broken during the year. It was a tough and usually non-glamourous life focused on minimal amounts of sleep and endless work.
Thankfully, though, I always felt loved, despite the rare displays of affection. Since we are heading in to the “love month” of February, let me reflect on the memorable moments in my formative years when others went out of their way to help, support, and offer me encouragement, which were stand-ins for hugs and I love yous.
A Trip Back in Time
Since my mother worked as a music teacher, most of my memories before starting kindergarten are of being babysat by my paternal grandparents, grandpa and grandma Moravec. They lived in Cotesfield (Nebraska), too, and were full-blooded Czechs who spoke sparingly and showed me how to live off the land.
Grandpa Moravec was quiet like my dad, wore Lee jean overalls, chewed Red Man tobacco and had a pocket watch attached to one of the overall straps near his chest. He never said much, and he usually sat with his legs crossed in a chair in the kitchen near the wall heater. In the summers when grandma and grandpa babysat me while mom was going to summer school to renew her teaching certificate, he would sit motionless in his recliner chair in the living room, watching baseball for hours. I remember playing in the corner of their living room and thinking I ought to go over and ask him, “Are you dead, grandpa?”
Uncle Frankie Moravec
However, big fun was had when grandma and grandpa propped me up between them on the bench seat of their 1968 International Scout pickup and made the drive out to my dad’s younger brother’s, Uncle Frankie’s, farm. Uncle Frankie was the human equivalent of a keg party. He did all the cool stuff like smoked a pipe, he told jokes, and he generally tried to see what crazy antics he could get away with.
For example, one Sunday afternoon in the late 1960s when the Moravec aunts, uncles and cousins were gathered at grandma and grandpa’s house, Uncle Frankie wondered what would happen if he dumped popcorn kernels down the barrel of my late great grandpa Moravec’s double-barrel muzzle loading shotgun. After pouring black powder down the barrel, he stuffed down a torn corner piece of paper towel, followed by a handful of popcorn kernels. Sure enough, when he fired the 70+year-old gun, it shot out some blackened kernels of popcorn, and all of us cousins laughed hysterically, thinking he was the coolest uncle or dad who had ever lived.
Uncle Frankie even had a special name for me in my pre-kindergarten days: Diane-ee. He was complete, uncensored, goofball fun, and I adored him. He made me feel loved.
A Big Brother’s Love
Then there was the time when I was about 9 when I got caught in a late afternoon hailstorm while walking on my paper route, delivering the Grand Island Daily Independent newspaper to my 16 or so customers in Cotesfield. Thankfully, I was able to make it to grandma’s house once hail started falling.
After the brief storm, I got back to work, walking down muddy gravel streets still covered with hail stones and tree leaves. A few minutes later, my oldest brother, Randy, and his girlfriend pulled up in his car to ask if I was okay.
“I was afraid you had gotten caught out in the storm, so we came looking for you,” he said. “Do you need a ride?”
“Nope,” I said. “I made it to grandma’s house just in time, so I’m okay.”
Wow, I thought to myself as I continued walking and straightened the newspapers straddling under my left arm. He came to see if I was alright. No one has ever done that before. Usually, I was on my own in those types of situations.
That kind gesture was a symbol of my big brother’s love, and Randy continues to have the same concern for my well-being even today. I am truly blessed.
My final show-me-the-love story involves a runaway pony. On a particularly young and dumb day at age 7, I climbed up on the saddle atop a farm pony my sister, Marilyn, had ridden into Cotesfield to give rides to the Moravec cousins. When she grabbed and threw the reins over the volleyball net post that was keeping the horse tethered, the pony took off at top speed with me holding on to the saddle horn, shrieking. The frightened pony ran for four blocks as I screamed, then he abruptly stopped in a freshly-cut alfalfa field to graze.
I was so hysterical I decided it was best to fall off instead of properly dismounting, in case the pony decided to take off again. So, I fell to the ground, splat into alfalfa stalks that felt like a bed of prickly nails. A few moments later I rose to my feet, dazed, as a slew of Moravecs sitting in the bed of Uncle Frankie’s pickup arrived to rescue me.
Although I was bewildered and embarrassed, thankfully I had no broken bones. Grandma gave me the once-over after we arrived back at her house and I received the all-clear. But I felt the love and attention of a pickup-full of aunts, uncles and cousins who were concerned about my well-being. And given where I was at emotionally at the time, it was a really big deal.
February is not just for romantic love anymore.
AAAAAnd We’re Off
Last month I mentioned I’m taking myself on as a project in 2022, discovering, packaging and eventually shouting out to the world what I am. But most important, why I am.
One of my favorite exercises in Kami Guildner’s Marketing Mastery Course I’m taking was to ponder this question: If your brand was an animal, what would it be?
While I hoped I would end up as my favorite dog breed, Labrador retriever, I opted for an animal that illustrates my primary archetype. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) described “archetypes” as the recurring patterns found in our stories that are passed down through history via our genes. Fascinating.
Anyway, my profile indicated my primary archetype is revolutionary. Here’s what my profile had to say about me:
Unless you are asleep, your mind is prodding you with ways to “revolutionize” whatever is around you at the time. It nags you with, “How can I make this better?” You see everything—maybe not as it should be—but as you think it should be.
Bingo. Case in point, I had to start something impactful—COPE—to get past cancer, and become a psycho-oncology advocate to truly begin to understand my whys.
When it came time to illustrate my brand as an animal, I chose bald eagle. Here’s why:
They are our nation’s symbol of freedom.
Awaken to the Possibilities
In closing, my sincere thanks to Sandy Neves, Bob Johns, Ellen DuPont, Stephanie Bennett, Colleen Hansen, and Lynn Myers for providing feedback to my 360 profile request. You are all faithful readers of this column, and I am eternally grateful for your friendship and your willingness to share feedback about how I continue to evolve. I have learned much from each of you, and I look forward to learning more.
Sending you heartfelt love and gratitude,