Sunday, May 23, 2010
Jeffrey Taylor Wadsworth Graduation Speech
Last Saturday many of us witnessed firsthand Jeffrey’s graduation (with cum laude honors) at Babson College’s graduation ceremony – proud recognition of his hard work and success in the accounting program at that very fine school, and most of you know he will earn a Master’s degree in accounting this summer and join Price Waterhouse Coopers in September. Not bad.
The ‘Jeffrey Stories’ we love to tell as a family are by now legion to many of you.
For instance, most of you remember Jeffrey’s fascination, at a very young age, with vacuum cleaners. If you remember, as a baby Jeffrey loved pushing the on and off button of the vacuum cleaner and listening to the motor whirl. One particular day – when he was about a year old – the vacuum cleaner refused to whir as it usually did when he pushed the power button. Jeffrey stared at the machine for a few minutes, tried the power button a few times, and then crawled over, grabbed the unplugged power cord, crawled back, plugged it into the wall and hit the button again – squealing with delight when the motor turned on. Pam and I looked at each other and simultaneously mouthed, “We are in BIG trouble with this one!”
You have all heard Pam and I tell the story of Jeffrey’s birth. Talk about a pain in the you-know-what! This kid came into this world in major crisis mode, and has not veered too far from that course since. If you remember the circumstances, carrying Jeffrey in August 1987, Pam came down with preeclampsia. She was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in early September, and was forced to lie on her left side for several weeks. In late September, when she was due to deliver, the doctors inexplicably sent her home. On the evening of September 29th, Pam went to bed early in our apartment in Weston. That night, Ged, Eric Stephens, and I watched a gory combat movie and drank way too much beer. At about 1am, we heard a faint cry from upstairs, “Kirby! I think you better call my mother!” The next couple of hours are a blur now, but I do remember driving my white Toyota Supra about 100mph down Rte 9, sort of hoping a cop would pull us over so I could tell him that my wife was about to have a baby. No such luck…we made it to the hospital in no time…but it took the little shit 3 days of pushing, and finally all sorts of flesh cutting and forceps pulling, to finally make his appearance. By the time he slithered out, the place looked like a scene from MASH – blood and guts everywhere. Looking back at that experience, it is amazing we ever had another child…
Speaking of other children, who can forget several years later, the ‘accident’ when Jeffrey and Stephen were playing in the fort I built for them in the backyard. Stephen was at the top of the fort, and Jeffrey rushed up the ladder to the attack him. Stephen pushed Jeffrey off the ladder and he landed in a crumpled pile on the ground, with a mangled bone protruding from his wrist. Rushing to the hospital, I don’t know who was in worse shape – Jeffrey or me.
Or… how about the time Bethy was babysitting Stephen and Jeffrey in our old house on Timber Lane – Jeffrey and Stephen shared a bunk bedroom back then, and for some reason I don’t remember, Stephen slept in the top bunk. They ordered pizza and watched a movie before Bethy put them both to bed. Sometime in the evening, before we got home, Stephen woke up, felt sick to his stomach, leaned over the edge of the bunk bed, and …well, you get the picture. Jeffrey literally took it on the chin…
Yaya will remember when Jeffrey was about 5 years old, during a visit to Runaway in Maine, he bumped into the kerosene lamp at the top of the stairs, spilling fuel down the hallway and threatening to burn the camp down. What Yaya may not know is that it was actually the ghost who spirits the Runaway stairway that literally scared Jeffrey half to death and caused the ‘accident’. So, Yaya, maybe now you can finally forgive Jeffrey for spilling that kerosene…
And several of you well remember many years later, during a Christmas Vacation visit to Yaya at Quail Ridge in Florida, Jeffrey was riding one of Bobo’s old red bikes, when the chain bucked and Jeffrey flew over the handlebars breaking his collarbone, and almost destroying his curling team’s chances to win the Junior National championships…
And there are many, many other ‘Jeffrey Stories’…
But, through it all Jeffrey not only survived, but found or fought his way to success. Through the broken bones, challenged spirits, and other barriers, Jeffrey has always made a way -- over, under, around, or through. He is relentless in pursuing his goals. Challenges? – sure he has had his unfair share. Triumphs? you bet – more than you can count.
I want to take a minute here to recognize three people that Jeffrey was fortunate to have close loving relationships with who cannot be with us today – Bobo, Waddy, and Phyllis.
Jeffrey was in awe of his great-grandfather, Norman Appleyard. He loved Bobo – and Bobo was proud and protective of Jeffrey. I know Normy is looking down (or up depending on your point of view) and smiling today – although admittedly, Jeffrey, he would have preferred Brown over Babson…
Likewise, Jeffrey had a very special place in the hearts of my Mom and Dad.
Of all the pictures I have ever taken, my favorite is a close up of a month’s old Jeffrey and a very many year’s old Waddy, face to face, laughing at each other. My dad was so proud of me for having Jeffrey, and his pride in my becoming a father meant the world to me.
I know all of you who knew her loved my mom, Phyllis. She absolutely lived for Jeffrey. She lit up around him, reading him stories, baking him cookies, finger painting with him…I truly loved seeing her love for him.
I know all three of them are here with us today – and I know they are just so, so proud of Jeffrey.
I suppose any father is partial to his first kid. None of us is born predisposed to raising children – we don’t inherit the skills and knowledge needed to take a tiny little thing that can’t eat on its own, or wipe its own bottom, and turn it into the amazing adult you see here. We all make mistakes – we are too harsh, or too soft, or too dominant, or too something, or too not ‘something’ enough… The first always takes it on the chin – as first time parents we all make mistakes, and raising of Jeffrey was no exception. Pam and I have over-parented, under-indulged, over-indulged, over-worried, ignored, and if it is actually possible, maybe loved him too much. But to his credit – Jeffrey took our amateur parenting in stride and came out the better for it in the long run.
at 3:28 AM