“Growing up in a large family had advantages and disadvantages,” Lynn says. “The advantage was having built-in friends and partners in crime. The disadvantage was constant chaos.” Lynn and her siblings numbered 6. 10 years separated the oldest from the youngest. The family lived in a 3-bedroom house in Ecorse, MI.
Lynn calls her mom “the no nonsense parent;” her dad, Bill Wilson, “the cool parent.” When her dad disciplined them (read: her 4 brothers), “We knew he meant business. But we also knew some sort of chuckle would come later.” Her dad had a favorite expression: “Clunks for you.” It was a figure of speech meaning a “flick on the noggin.” He was famous for saying it, though Lynn never saw him deliver one.
Lynn calls her late father “a kid magnet.” He was a pal to all the kids In the neighborhood. They called him “Mr. Bill” and loved his slapstick sense of humor. Lynn recalls Christmas eves, spying on her father and his best friend trying to put together toys for her younger siblings, cracking up on discovering missing parts. Bill was a businessman. He sold insurance, “so he could enjoy his real job: devoting himself to kids.”
Bill played baseball, football and hockey. Above all, he loved golf and earned a respectable 14 handicap. As his kids grew older, Bill coached little league, hockey and crew. He served on the Recreation Commission, which oversaw sports programming for kids. “One of my parents came to every tennis tournament of mine, swim meet or softball game of my sisters, baseball game and regatta of my brothers, and even hockey all winter long,“ Lynn says.
Bill was a “fierce competitor and insisted we be the same.” Lynn’s brothers Tom and Mark played college hockey; Jeff played high school hockey. Lynn played college tennis; her sister Carolyn swam and played softball in high school. Brother Bruce was an “amazing” bowler. “Quitting was not an option. We were in it to win it.”
Lynn says, “I have natural ability for many sports, but golf isn’t one of them. I love it, so I persist. But It’s humbling.”
Recently, just a couple of days before the one-year anniversary of Bill’s death, Lynn was playing golf with some folks from her Oakland University alumni association. She was on the 10th hole. “It wasn’t one of my better days on the golf course. I wanted to give up after nine, but I didn’t. Everyone was hitting well except for me.” She decided to grab an 8 iron. When she returned to the cart to get it, she banged her head on the roof hard enough to produce an instant goose egg.
“At that moment, I heard my dad saying, ‘Clunks to you. Now go out there and show them you can do it!’ That was my dad, reaching beyond the grave to tell me to hang tough.”
Lynn did play better on the back nine. She was glad she’d listened to her father and hadn’t quit.
I met Lynn when she was the uber capable and compassionate concierge at Karmanos Cancer Institute and I was a freaked out patient. We’ve been dear friends ever since. If you read GODSIGNS, my memoir of recovery from stage 4 cancer, you may remember Lynn—a hero of my saga. Lynn now lives near me in Florida. She’s program director for Compeer, a remarkable organization that teams mentally challenged people with mentally stable mentors.
On the one-year anniversary of her father’s death, Lynn wrote this to me: “In the few days before my father died, he was in great spirits. He told me how proud he was of me and that he thought he had the two most beautiful daughters. At age 87, my father packed the funeral home for his service, all seats occupied by every available boy or girl he coached over a lifetime. I sure do miss him. As he got older, his hearing was so impaired it became difficult for him to participate in conversation. But we simply adjusted and wrote on a white board. Now he’s communicating in a different way, and we hear him.”
Thanks, Lynn, for this delightful remembrance. Keep listening.
(Readers: Do have words of wisdom from your parents? Thoughts that keep you going? Please write them in the comment/reply section of this post. I look forward to hearing from you.)