Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Most Memorable Man

     Today we had to deliver a commemorative speech on a person who influenced our lives.  I chose to speak about my grandfather, who had a huge impact on my life, and I thought I'd share it.

The most memorable man I have ever known couldn’t even remember my name.  The man who taught me the most unforgettable life lessons, couldn’t even recall his own past.  This man showed me what it meant to live, even when he was forgetting his own life.  Marvin G. Chidester Sr, or “Honey”, as we grandkids called him, taught me that life is a challenge that can only be met with hard work, new perspectives, and a sense of humor.

Hardworking from the start, Honey joined the Navy in an attempt to forge a better life for himself.  He became an electrician’s mate, and began working diligently to obtain his place in the world.  A smart man and dedicated to his work, he quickly came up with a design for a motor that would supply power while also charging itself so that it would never have to be restarted.  Even when the government put the lid on that project, Honey never wavered.  He set his keen mind to other projects, such as building a better hog trap for hunting season.  After his Navy career he became a husband and father.  He joined an electrician’s union and travelled the country for work.  As his family grew, he put his smarts towards opening his own electric company in his home town to be on hand should his family need him.  Even on his off days, he’d be seen feeding the chickens, turning out horses, or tending to his beehives.  Honey taught me that idleness and success are like oil and water.  They don't mix.  Through his example, I see what a good day’s work can bring.  For him, it brought a substantial amount of land on which his 6 children and 19 grandchildren could grow and play.  It brought the financial security to care for and provide an inheritance for those children, but more than anything it brought a sense of pride that seemed to hang around Honey’s shoulders like a cape.  He had a presence, a quiet dignity that he earned by getting down in the muck and getting his hands dirty.

Honey was extremely intelligent.  He loved puzzles.  So much so that he took to creating his own.  There was one puzzle he made that had me stumped for weeks.  It was made of metal that Honey had molded into two horseshoes with a chain link connecting them.  On the link, there was a circle made of iron.  The object of the puzzle was to remove the iron circle from the chain.  You couldn’t pull it over the horseshoes on the end; it was too small.  You couldn’t pull the chain apart; it was too strong.  I worked at that puzzle for weeks, becoming more and more frustrated.  One day, I lost my patience with it, and threw the thing down and had myself a good cry.  Honey came in, and seeing the puzzle on the floor, simply nudged me and said, “Come on kid, let’s get some scoops.”  After we had finished our ice cream, and I had time to calm down, Honey brought the puzzle back to me, and, handing it over said, “Try looking at it another way.”  At first, I was frustrated that he didn’t just tell me the answer, but then I saw what he meant.  If you twisted the links in the middle, the iron circle would simply slip down over the horseshoes, then slip off the chain.  I’ll never forget what Honey taught me that day.  He not only showed me how to look at things in a new light, but he also taught me that some of the greatest lessons in life are the ones we have to learn the hard way.

Honey also taught me that life should be met with a great sense of humor.  Growing up, he always had a quick retort to any comment.  These weren’t the dry, sarcastic or biting remarks most people reply with.  They weren’t even cheesy.  They were simply witty.  If I’d tell him “I’ll see you tomorrow Honey” the response was, “Is that a threat or a promise?”  If I told him, “I’ll see you there”  it was “Not if I see you first”.  And if we made plans for another date, it was always, “God willing, and the creek don’t rise”.  Even when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he got a twinkle in his eye as he told me he had “Old Timer’s”.  He taught me that some of life’s scariest moments can be faced head on, if you only learn to laugh at them.  Laughter in the face of fear is true courage, and that’s something my grandfather embodied.  From firing guns on the Navy ships, to venturing into a risky business market, to succumbing to a degenerating disease, Honey did so with a smirk and a shrug.  He taught me that if you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, laugh at it.  If you can’t laugh at it, what’s the point? 

I owe a lot to Honey.  He taught me to work hard, to look at things in a new light, and to always keep my sense of humor.  To paraphrase one of Loretta Lynn’s songs, “They don’t make ‘em like my Honey anymore, guess they’ve thrown away the pattern through the years.  In a great big world of freedom, in a time we really need ‘em, they don’t make ‘em like my Honey anymore”.

   At the end of the speech, I knew I had done Honey justice when my Public Speaking teacher told me she would loved to have met Honey.  She said she wished I could bring him to class.  

   In honor of Honey, I'd like to share a recipe for a chocolate cake.  Like Honey, chocolate cake is a simple concoction, but it's a favorite of many.

Moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
For the cake:
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee**

Preheat oven 350.  Grease and flour 2 round 8" baking dishes; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula.  Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes away clean with only a few crumbs.  Cool for 15 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

*If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute it by pouring 1 TBS white vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and filling it the rest of the way with milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken.
**Coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate.  Decaf can be substituted for regular.

For the frosting:
1-8oz block cream cheese
1 stick butter 
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 lb powdered sugar (varies slightly based on the consistency you want)
1 TBS milk

Allow cream cheese and butter to soften on the counter for 30 minutes.  Cream together butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  Add in cocoa powder and vanilla.  Beat until well combined.  Add powdered sugar.  Add milk.  Mix, then use to frost your cake.

This really was the most delicious chocolate cake I've had in a long while, and I'm seriously considering it being Monkey's birthday cake this year.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. :-)

1 comment:

  1. I totally cried like a baby after reading this! o_O Also, I might make a chocolate cake using this recipe sometime soon.