Saturday, February 4, 2012


Larry and Mom sitting on the poop tube.

Larry Utzinger turned 70 last week.  Larry has been married to my mother since I was 13 years old.  He was the one who would wake me up before the sunrise to go duck hunting.  He introduced my brothers and me to Chinese food.  He taught me how to use my elbows when blocking out much larger players.  He also was the only person to tell me not to listen to everyone else and follow my dream to play college basketball.  I made the team and vividly remember seeing him sitting in the stands when we played in Lacy, WA.  We lost, but that was ok.  He pointed out what I did right and gave me advice on how I could improve.

Larry last summer at my brother's house in Chelan, WA.
Larry gave me some great advice during a moment in my life when I thought I had ruined it.  That moment happened while I was a senior in high school.  It involved: me, empty beer cans, parents coming home unexpectedly, being suspended from the football team, and cancelling homecoming.  Larry was the school’s superintendent.  Monday morning I was called into his office to face the consequences for my actions.  Larry, the principal, and my football coach were waiting to chat with me.  The coach was very upset because the rest of the season had to be cancelled.  (We had a small school and a small number of players on the team.)  I remember exactly how upset he was because he made a comment about how he wished I was 18 so he could legally kick my ass.  I didn’t think it was appropriate to speak, so I didn’t point out that I was in fact 18.  I just made sure I kept a desk or one of the school’s administrators between him and I. 

Larry, Mom, Monica, and me.
After the others left the office, Larry asked me to stay behind.  When it was just the two of us, I braced myself for a stern lecture about responsibilities and acting grown up.  Instead, I received the most important advice I’ve ever been given.  He said, “Don’t sweat it.”  Huh?  He said that I wasn’t the first person ever to do that and I won’t be the last.  He explained that we all make mistakes, even big ones, but we have to keep living our lives.  He explained that while it seemed big at the moment, people would forget about it.   He told me not to worry about what other people wanted me to do and to live my own life.  For good and sometimes bad, I’ve lived my life that way and have no regrets.  Lots of great experiences but no regrets. 

Larry also was the man who, in addition to giving me a bowl cut, accidently shaved one of my eyebrows off.  I was in the 8th grade.  It took me a while to notice it, mainly because of how hideous the bowl cut was.  When I saw it I was horrified.  When I confronted him about it he just shrugged and said I was lucky both weren’t missing.  For the next few weeks I learned a little bit about how to use an eyebrow pencil.  Oddly enough, I also learned which color blush goes with my eyes.  (Burnt rosebud)

 Larry and Mom came up here to our place in Aug for a look at isolation. He told me he had always wanted to teach up here and needed to see what it looked like.   They looked for two weeks and then went home.  I am glad he was able to come up here and spend some time with us.  He was able to see what it is like out in the bush and I was able to get some more advice about being a teacher. It was a great reminder not to sweat the small stuff.  Happy birthday Larry, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.