Eulogy

Grampa always valued education more than anything else.   But he was not an educated man.  He wasn’t a stupid man, or an ignorant one. Throughout his life, he was always curious and hungry for knowledge. He read all the time, and above all loved history, both of the country and of the family. We couldn’t go to a new place without Grampa trying to drag us to some battlefield or fort. He learned constantly, and strongly believed that education makes a person. So the fact that I went to Harvard, I think, made him prouder than anything else.  He never stopped talking about it.

A lot of people at Harvard also think that education makes the person, but there it can be more sinister and snobbish. Since it’s supposedly the Best College in the World, it’s very self-satisfying for folks to tell themselves that a person only matters if they have a degree from an ancient institution, and everyone else is simply a peasant. Most of them lived all their lives around privilege, and don’t know real struggle; they think two exams on the same day is the toughest challenge in life. Those that don’t come from privilege often forget where they came from, and turn their back on their homes and families as much as they can.

But I never would have been there without my grandfather, both through his generosity, and his example. A geeky little boy with big glasses who wanted to read everything might not have kept up with it without knowing his big fireman grandfather was doing the same thing. And once I got there, I knew that you didn’t need education to make the world a better place.  Grampa made the world a better place all the time; it’s practically all he did.

He was born into a very tough world, but instead of looking out for himself, he always tried to make things better for others. His brothers and sisters had little more than each other and their remarkable mother, and Grampa always took the worst of it onto himself. His own family life wasn’t perfect — he had had no one to teach him how to be a father — but he always strove to be the best he could be, never neglecting his family, always making sure they had enough even when times were hard. He made us all as Leblancs better, and this extended family was so important to him. We came close to not doing the Fourth this year, and I thank God that my cousin Rhonda did it anyway, even though her life was busy and hard at the time, and she probably shouldn’t have.  That gave his wider family a chance to see him one last time, without knowing it.  Most of my friends don’t understand how a family this large and extensive can even know each other, much less get together on a regular basis. But many of his nieces and nephews saw him as a second father, and Uncle Lester and his brothers and sisters kept us together. He made his city better, serving for 15 years as a firefighter, and then as a small businessman in neon signs, real estate, and God knows what else. He was instinctively friendly, and would strike up a conversation without effort wherever he went. He made his country better, serving in the Army in Korea and Germany. We all know his patriotism knew no bounds.

So I could never turn my back on any of that, when I was at Harvard and people there assumed I came from an awful, terrible past simply because I don’t have wealthy ancestors. But I had something better. I had a grandfather and the family he helped create for an example and a support. He may have been proud of me going to Harvard, but I am prouder to be a Leblanc, and to be his grandson. We could all do well to live like him, always making the world a better place. The only time he ever made the world a worse place was when he left it.

Lester Joseph Leblanc Jr, Jan 21, 1931 – July 22, 2009.

Civility

You know, there’s nothing like a summer night in New England.  We don’t get too many scorching ones, and at night it’s even more rare to feel the heat.  Tonight I’m just sitting on the deck of the Sapphire, writing the EXL camp book by the light of a citronella torch.  There aren’t many bugs, but I like the torch anyway, for the pagan sort of light it casts.  It’s one of those nights where the blue and the sounds and the just-enough wind are such perfect conspirators in making one stop and think.  The deck right now only wants for one more torch, a bottle of fine scotch, and a few people to talk of weird things.

Reading Menick’s blog lately in full torrent mode has been difficult.  One because I go for my daily dose of bile and get all this other crap instead, that I used to skim over elsewhere.  I get what he’s trying to do, but I can’t say as I like it.  Content of different types should be easily separable; the paradigm of the web involves being able to slice off what’s of most use to me without having to wade through the rest.  That’s why I get my news from RSS these days, not television.

Plus, the policy posts bug me, if only because when they start talking about counterplans, namely CP, I automatically assume that Menick’s talking smack about me again.  I expect Vaughan has this same problem with JV LD.

This weekend is camp move in weekend.  The first year I was excited for camp; last year I was stressed for it, mostly because I was juggling too many other things to really dedicate my full attention to any one of them.  That last year’s camp succeeded so well is probably a testimony to my own relative uselessness.  However, this year I’m feeling calm.  We’ve made a great schedule — it gets better every year — and I’m teaching fun things.  Better yet, I have outlines of most of my classes already written, either from having taught them before, or from having time this past month to sit and craft them.  Some are even fully written, for the long elusive camp book that I’ve finally given some serious attention to this month.   Writing English is much more restful than writing code, which either works or doesn’t, with a hard edge.

I’m liking this new balance of life, and much looking forward to this sort of pace in the coming season.  A big event, then a few weeks to a month off to make the next event happen the way it ought.  Quality, not quantity.  It has reinforced my thinking on a number of fronts, especially regarding to some of the tournaments I was on the edge of continuing with or not.  I want to be able to sit on the shores of Lake Shirley in a thick pile carpet and taste the relaxation that to this day I still only know when I’m back home in Fitchburg.  The weather smells better there, and the rain is cooler and more real.  I miss the fireflies I’d see right now, and the Milky Way, and the birch trees.  So I should see them more this fall.

But for now, sitting in my favorite spot outside above, during my favorite time of year for it, some more writing.