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November 20, 2008

More Farfar…

Filed under: A life worth living,Conversations,Farfar,Just life — sbj @ 6:16 am

Most of my interactions with Farfar were centered on either having fun or being productive. The bulk of what I learned from him was practical. How to drive a nail, how to shingle a roof, how to field dress a deer, and things of that nature were the domain of Farfar.

Council was not his strong suit. Actually that’s not fair to say, I’m not sure if it was or not, it simply was not a big part of our interactions. However, based on one afternoon’s experience while hunting, it has occurred to me that in not having more deep and meaningful conversations with Farfar, I may have missed out on more than I realize.

I had returned early from the morning hunt and Farfar and I were working on setting up camp while my father stomped around in the woods. Dad was frequently out longer than I was… probably a big part of the reason he was the (much) more prolific hunter. I enjoyed hunting, but I also enjoyed getting back to camp and spending time with Farfar (and, let’s be honest, enjoying the fruits of his labor over the camp fire!).

One afternoon we were sitting in front of the fire and out of the blue he asked me who I was dating. I told him no one at the moment, but there was someone I had my eye on. He asked what I was waiting for, and I (honestly/foolishly?) responded that I didn’t think she would respond positively to my overture.

His reply, like so many of the things he said to me over the years, was short and to the point (I’m paraphrasing here, but it is very close)…

Remember this: rejection only hurts for a day or two, regret… is not so forgiving.

That single sentence changed my life from that day forward. Not as enabling, reckless and all encompassing as “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission”, it created a wonderful synergy between the “strike while the iron is hot” confidence of youth, and the “t’is better to have loved and lost…” knowledge that can only be gained from experience.

I became a better, more confident man on the mountain that day… although, I’m sure there are a decent number of women (if you have known me long enough, you can insert a “suit” joke here) who wish I had stayed out in the woods with my dad and missed that conversation altogether!! ;)

When I think of all the things I mightn’t have done over the years, without this one morsel of experience, I find myself once again overwhelmed with appreciation for a man who so simply and efficiently conducted the business of his life.

Thank you Farfar, I love you, and miss you terribly already…

November 18, 2008

Soren Bech Jacobsen (AKA Farfar) 1919-2008 RIP

Filed under: Farfar,Uncategorized — sbj @ 11:43 pm

Soren Bech Jacobsen passed away on November 12, 2008 in Caldwell Idaho. He was 89. A family memorial will be held in California in December.

Soren was born In Copenhagen, Denmark March 30, 1919, and immigrated to the United States in 1947. His work led him around the United States and the world, planting roots in such places as Florida, California, Hawaii, and the Philippines.

Soren earned his civil engineering degree at The Copenhagen Technical School in Denmark. Always full of energy, he participated in track and gymnastics while in school.

After having spent much of his adult life in the San Francisco bay area; it was a common family activity to seek out buildings of which Soren had been the overseer. Indeed, the skylines of many a bay area city would be considerably different without the contributions of Mr. Jacobsen.

Soren had his own construction business while in Sparta, New Jersey. Primarily building Lutheran churches, five of them over roughly 5 years. While in Hawaii, he was the superintendent of construction for the Colony Surf Hotel, which included the world famous Restaurant, Michel’s. He then moved to the Philippines where he was the superintendent for the construction of the Dole Pineapple plant. In California, he oversaw the construction of landmark sites such as the University of San Francisco Life Science building and the San Francisco Japanese Cultural Center. The latter years of his career were focused primarily on building banks.

He was lifetime NRA member, loved to sail, fish, hunt, bowl, play tennis, and wood carve. In fact, he was a card-carrying member of the California Carvers Guild.

Large industrial buildings and smaller, more intimate, woodcarvings were not all that Soren constructed however, and certainly, those things were less important to him than the family he built.

He married his beloved Inge September 26 1942 in Holte, Denmark and together they produced four children Hank (Cathy), Kris (Peter), John (Bonnie), and Merete. He was the proud patriarch of a family that includes 21 grand children and 15 great grandchildren. He was loved, and is survived by all of them.

Those of us who played sports “endured” the cries of “HEY HEY HEY HEY!!!” whenever we did anything at all on the field. It was the same HEY (just a few more of them) that we all remember him yelling every time he walked into a sushi restaurant.

Soren Bech Jacobsen was as loud as he was proud, and a prouder man you could never have met, not arrogant, not pompous, but simply proud. The type of pride that comes from something you has done, not from something you imagine yourself capable of doing. The type of pride that is as quiet, understated, and unassuming as he was outspoken, loud, and obnoxious. He was justifiably proud, because he has created and cultured a family of caring, devoted, and conscientious individuals.

“I build things” would be a perfect epitaph for a man who publicly and privately constructed and personified a testament on how a good life can be led.

In the words of his great-grandson “If I know Farfar, he’s up in heaven building us all a great big house right now.”

The family would like to thank Sun Health and Caldwell Care Center for the outstanding care and affection Soren received during his final months.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Stanford Children’s Hospital (http://www.lpch.org/)

November 13, 2008

Homeward Bound…

Filed under: Farfar,Just life — sbj @ 6:51 am

I have never suffered for a male role model. My entire life, I lived in the shadow of a great man. He did not invent anything, or entertain thousands, or even make himself wealthy over the course of his life. However, he did what was right, and what was best for those he cared about.

We played cards, while hunting, while sitting around the house, any old time really. I always marveled at how the same person, who would tell me instantly if he had seen my hand so that he did not have an unfair advantage, would just as quickly steal my nobs if I missed them! But, Farfar was a man of principle, stealing points is part of the game, just like good sportsmanship is, and he did both. In the end, when you thought about it, Farfar’s actions always made sense.

Farfar and I could not have been further apart politically. He furiously supported Bush… ‘nuff said. However, while I did question his political decision’s, and by question, what I really mean is debate vigorously for hours until he told me I was not allowed to talk politics with him any longer (a moratorium that usually lasted about 45-47 seconds, by the way), what I always respected were his convictions. Unlike many today, Farfar had a belief in a system , a system based on right, wrong, and opportunity. This system shaped his politics and his views on life and he never wavered upon it (even when it came to a certain someone’s strategery of misunderestimating). I am just as stubborn in defending and debating my own positions to this day.

Not all of his “lessons,” took, however. Take his eating habits, for example. Liver and onions… no; eating the turkey neck and other “treasures” that come in the little bag… please; that awful cheese you could smell in another county… goodness no! and don’t even get me started on what he would do with lard…

We had a discussion some years ago, as I looked at the blueprints to an addition he was building for one of his children. I don’t remember which child or which house, but I do remember the cool SBJ initials he had on each page. It was almost like a brand. When I asked him about it he told me about taking pride in my name (all of my name, my middle name was a critical a part as my first and last). He told me not to lend my name to anything I was not proud of, but to always leave my mark on my work. To this day I am far more likely to sign something sbj than anything else, I use my middle name on everything, and I swell with pride each and every time I do.

Together, we built a second floor on my childhood home in Reno. I remember one day he was doing some electrical work in the laundry room and accidentally cut a live wire. As far as I know, my father still has the wire cutters that he was using, and they still have the nearly perfect circle blown out of the steel from when he hit the current. I remember how terrified I was that day, when I thought he could have died. Ironically, in the weeks leading up to his passing, I did not have the same fear, rather, I had gratitude for having had the opportunity to witness such a full and meaningful life taking place before my eyes and for the effect experiencing it had upon me.

Through all the games of cards, all the construction projects and all the political battles; however, what I remember most about Farfar was the single sentence that punctuated almost every visit. I would ask him to stay longer he would invariable say “I have to get home to Farmor” (based on his snoring habits, I’m not 100% certain she always shared his enthusiasm… but to him it was always paramount).

Farfar began his final journey back home to Farmor shortly after 5:00pm on November 12th, 2008, and I’m fully confident that right now he is enjoying the trip, stealing someone’s nobs, and eating the stinkiest cheese ever created…

October 31, 2008

If I had a hammer…

Filed under: Farfar,Just life,Observations — sbj @ 5:45 am

I can drive most any nail into most any board in three swings (a tap and two swings to be technical). With practice and technique, so can you. The key, I learned as a teen building the floor of the second storey addition we were putting in our house, is as much in how you hold the hammer as how hard you swing it. You see, you have to hold it at the very end. Then, of course, you have to take a full swing (two of them, actually). This is how, for countless years, craftsmen and carpenters have done it. Learning this particular skill came at the cost of many a nail (of both the metal and finger variety), but learn it I did, and retain it I have.

My teacher was my grandfather (heretofore know as Farfar), and he was meticulous, persistent, and at times, downright stubborn. But he did things right, and insisted that if you were part of his crew (even if you were there by conscription, and not by choice), by God, you were going to do things right as well. Every member of my family has, at one point or another, lived, comfortably protected, under a roof that Farfar designed and helped build.

That’s what he does, he builds things.

Farfar has come to visit my family, both in Reno and subsequently in Boise many times over the years; every time raising the household decibel level to a previously unimagined level. I’m not sure of the direct Danish to English translation of “ooooh for pucker!!!” but I don’t think it’s appropriate in church (even in the first pew on the right, where the gentlemen and scholars meet).

Those of us who played sports endured (and I’m being nice when I chose that word) the cries of “HEY HEY HEY HEY!!!” whenever we did anything at all on the field. It was the same HEY (just a few more of them) that I remember him yelling every time we walked into a sushi restaurant.

You see, Soren Bech Jacobsen was as loud as he was proud, and a prouder man I have never met. Not arrogant, not pompous, simply proud. The type of pride that comes from something you have done, not from something you imagine yourself capable of doing. The type of pride that is as quiet, understated and unassuming as Farfar was outspoken, loud and obnoxious. He was, justifiably proud, because he has created and cultured a family of caring, devoted and conscientious individuals.

That’s what he does, he builds things.

From the best fort a set of grand kids ever had to banks scattered across the pacific, he builds things. From additions on the houses of his children to a new start in a new country in the middle of a world war, he builds things. From a supportive and nurturing family to confident and successful progeny, he builds things.

In fact, If ever you are asked about Soren Bech Jacobsen, you can simply reply that he is a craftsman, because he builds things, that’s what he does.

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