Elizabeth, Larry, and older brother Warren at a family gathering. Their older siblings, Ernest and Helen, had passed away by this time.
Larry with a trout. He was an enthusiastic fisherman.
My father, Lawrence Gilbert Desjadon, was born November 4, 1916. He was the youngest son and next youngest child of his parents, Stephen and Maria. The family was French Canadian with grandparents first enumerated in the US census for 1870. A group of related households were located in Moers Forks, New York near the Canadian border.
Stephen and Maria were of the first generation born in the US. Although the language of their upbringing had been French, Stephen and Maria, unlike many of French Canadian background, resolved to speak English in their home so that the children would not have language barriers to overcome when they started school. My Dad, always a person who enjoyed his own company and the outdoors, stated once that when the older relatives assembled for Sunday visits they spoke French. This annoyed him, so he shouldered his 22 rifle, called his dog and went for long walks through the pastures of the Keller Farm.
There was a wry element to observing my father's birthday. He was born at home, as were his siblings. His mother lost several babies at birth. Evidently the attending doctor didn't fill out and file some of the birth certificates properly. The full name and the date on what was supposed to be his birth certificate didn't match who my father knew himself to be! It required the services of a lawyer and various affidavits presented at court before he could file for his Social Security pension when he retired.
Larry enjoyed deer hunting and duck hunting. On one memorable occasion when my sisters and I were small, Daddy packed us and our long-suffering mother into the car on a weekend afternoon and drove to a likely spot to locate ducks. As we crept [less than silently] through tall marsh grass and exploding cat tails to reach a vantage point, Mother--who had dreadful allergies and "hay fever"--was taken with a sneezing fit. Daddy glared and "shushed." Mother continued to sneeze dismally into a handkerchief. We children shuffled nervously and snickered. The ducks, quacking madly, flapped away into the sky. Thus ended the first and only family duck hunt.
Larry gave up hunting in his middle years and devoted himself to trout fishing, becoming a local legend. Driving to some out of the way spot and hiking with his tackle to a favorite stream was one of his great joys. He gave it up only when sometime in his 80's he began to fear that he might fall and be injured, unable to make it back to his parked car.
Although he claimed no familiarity with the French language, Larry's speech had some colorful oddities of expression. He read aloud to us sometimes when Mother was busy, and struggled with words or phrases which struck him as unusual. My sisters and I took advantage of this and coaxed him to read our weekly Sunday School lessons. This practice came to an end the day that he suddenly exploded, "Who the hell is Neb...Neba...Neba..chad...Nebuchadnezzar?" He flung down the lesson guide in disgust; Mother intervened. After he stomped out we were given a stern lecture regarding our rudeness and Mother explained that our Dad had not grown up in a household where books were read aloud and the English language familiar as it was to us.
I learned to enjoy my father's quirks of speech quietly and without comment. A car driven too fast down our dirt road was going "hell-i-ty toot" or "hell-i-ty ding-dong." More than one of anything was refered to as "a couple two or three." [That one bothered Mother who said sometimes in exasperation that a "couple" and "two" were the same!] The worst prediction he could make regarding something or someone going wrong was that they were "going to hell in a hand basket!"
Larry was a determined and conscientious workman. He fussed over any duty in his care, making sure that no detail was overlooked. He fussed about the weather, keeping thermometers outside several windows so that he could monitor the temperature. A heavy snowfall had him out with shovel or snowblower clearing paths, then he drove his car a few miles to "Sudbury Hill" to see if the tires were equal to taking the slippery grade after a full stop. He kept flashlights and spare batteries handy. He fed the birds, watching them through the window, cussing the ones who were too greedy. He noted when the wild geese flew south, found the first pussywillows of spring and when I lived next door, phoned me to let me know that the "peepers" were calling on the first mild April nights.
Our relationship was not one of many words or profound exchanges. When we spoke on the phone it seemed a bit awkward, yet I saved up things to tell him, small occurances to write in a letter. For the past few years I have put away his Christmas cards fearing that each one would mark the last time I would see his scrawling signature.
In late August I helped to clean the house, to sort through the surprisingly sparse belongings of a long lifetime. I attended a memorial service thronged with people from the small town where my parents spent their entire lives. I brought home a few family pictures, a faded blue cap. I cherish memories of a strong, caring, often irascible man; a man who noticed the changes of the seasons; a man who swore at the morning glories when they climbed their trellis, but refused to blossom; a man who loved robins and his cat. A man I will miss.