Thursday, December 10, 2009

about my uncle george

When I was little, my sister and I stayed out at my grandma's after school and during summer break. Grandma would make a trip over to Pana to see her sister, my Aunt Marie, once a week. My sister and I would play out in the yard and try not to get in trouble or fight in the house. Sometimes Uncle George would be home during the day but normally he was out hauling rock or water. He made a business for himself hauling rock and water and whatever else in some big old trucks and he did it longer than people can remember. Being self employed and frugal, he kept a close eye on everything and kept a book for it all. He did his own billing and his own taxes and knew just every cent the state or the feds wanted from him. And he paid them, grudgingly sometimes but my guess would be always on time. That's who Uncle George was.

The state notified my Uncle George some years ago that their house and land would be taken should the state ever get around to expanding the road the that ran in front of his house. I think initially it was concerning to them. It was his home but also his business. But as the years past and the state had other projects, the road in front of their house ever getting widen looked REALLY unlikely. The odds were quite good that it would be there kids problem and not theirs. Some 15 years later (by my guess), Marie and George were notified that the state was ready to widen the road and it was time for them to sell and find a new place. Uncle George still hauled for people but he was pretty well on in years and it was mostly water to fill tanks for little old widows. It was with a good bit of sadness that they moved. And within a few years, my Uncle George died.

But what was problematic upon their move and his death was his record keeping. Not because it was messy or hard to decipher but because it was complete. It was thorough. He could tell you how many gallons of water he hauled to Mrs. Smith on a particular date in 1975. How much rock went to XYZ project. How much, When, Where, To Whom, Why, and the price. It was all down. And it wasn't just his business. My Grandma went around to play cards (Rummy is the game of choice) with Marie and George at least once a month for countless years. George has a book that can tell you who won and by how much and because of which dealer in August of 1983. Every game that he ever played or conducted on his premises or vicinity, he has a record of. Generally is a1 subject spiral bound notebook. And the question comes: what does one do with 20+ years of notebooks full of record keeping on card games? Think that through for a minute. You could throw them away but it seems a shame when we're talking about a person's passion. Record keeping was Uncle George's hobby. Do you throw away a person's hobby? Even if its a bit obsessive, its represents the diligent work of a man.

I don't know what became of the notebooks. Aunt Marie has needed to downsize a fair bit. She's on her own and her health isn't great. But what I learned from this, and why I'm telling you this story is that there is a virtue in good honest record keeping. I have a fairly good memory. But if I write something down, I remember it far better. And if I need to validate or prove something, you'd better believe I'm going to write it down.

The paper man stopped delivering our paper after his holiday bonus. I had written down when he came with the last paper and when we called to cancel the paper. The next month a man came along to collect for paper delivery. I got out my calendar, showed him when we cancelled, when the last delivery came, how much the bonus was and instructed him that if he needed money, he needed to contact the delivery man. You can't argue with that.

We've been wrestling the Telekom for 3 months since we changed our internet service. I've written down and saved every bill and the contract dates. Again this month I took it all in. It was easy to correct and hopefully they really put it in their computer correctly (computers were not George's thing and he had a more than healthy distrust of them).

We've been working through the world's longest renewal of visa which has required phone calls, papers sent and delivered and to various offices and then visits to various offices. I have written down in my dayplanner every time Jonathan or I have done something with that process and what it was. Every extension filing, how long it took, and when. So when Jonathan was told he needed to pay the cost for facilitating our visa, he was confused. Because if we haven't been facilitating the visa, then what is all that work. So today he went in and explained this to his boss. With my calendar full of dates. And (Jonathan just called) sure enough he doesn't need to pay the facilitator. Now I don't know about my suggestion that they pay us for the facilitating, my guess is Jonathan left out that bit. But it makes me happy. Not because I get to save my money, although that is CERTAINLY very nice, but because it reminded me of my Uncle George and the virtue of honest, diligent work.
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