Hero Story #7 – Max Hanks -What a story!!!
“Everyone has a story. It might or might not be a story of dreams, friendship, hope, survival or even death. And every story is worth telling. But more than that, it’s worth living. – Savi Sharma [ Pictured left to right; Jason West, Max Hanks, Carter West, Dalton West]
I have written a lot of about YOU NOT BEING YOUR DIAGNOSIS. Maybe this one is a little different. Maybe the message about this post is that YOU ARE NOT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES.
This is one of the best men I have had the pleasure of meeting. Max is my father-in-law. He has been staying at my home while fighting some health challenges. I thought I knew about him, but today I know way more. I met this giant of a man in 1994 while asking him to marry his baby daughter, Maxine. In 1994, he came in from his farm and despite being intimidated, I asked him if I could marry his baby girl. I’ll never forget, he said, “You can marry her on three conditions. One, promise to spank your kids when they misbehave. Two, you can never bank at Valley Bank (they turned him down for a loan in the 1950s), and three, once you marry her, she’s yours. Don’t bring her back.” He didn’t know that I knew that I won the wife lottery. I never considered taking her back.
This is 90 years of grit, determination and hard work. Essentially abandoned by his mother/father at a young age, he was shuttled from relative to relative around the depression era, never having a consistent home. His childhood was challenging to say the least. He started with nothing and when it is time to move to the next phase, he’s going as a wealthy man, not necessarily from a temporal standpoint but if family/friend relationships are an indicator he’s quite affluent. Nine decades of good living makes one comfortable with who you are and what you stand for.
Coming out of a tough upbringing, he went on a church mission right after WWII to Lubbock Texas mission and served in the farm towns of Texas and Oklahoma. Today he reminded me that back then, a mission was without script or purse. Very difficult environment right after the depression and WWII. Shortly after his mission he served as a military police officer in the Korean War. Returning home with literally the shirt on his back and without a lot of resources, he married the girls of his dreams, Lois. They worked, scratched and clawed their way to a success as a potato farmer. They created an American Apple Pie family of 5 sons (4 living), two daughters and eventually 21 grandsons, 10 granddaughters; and 54 great grandkids with 3 on the way. Family problems? Sure, just like other families but great people (I really love my in-laws).
Besides my dad Henry (deceased), Max has been one of the biggest role models in my life. Steady, determined, resourceful, inquisitive, curious and handy. One of my favorite stories . . . . I feel bad that I am not more handy-manish (is that a word?). When Max/Losis would come stay with us, Maxine would give Max a list of things to do. Maxine would say, “Daddy, can you fix the garage door, can you hang this picture, can you fix the furnace?” And he would start on her list of projects. This is kind of embarrassing as the master of my domain so one day, I told myself, this is ridiculous and I took him aside and said, “Max, I am sorry you can’t relax at our house. I’ll talk to Maxine and tell her, don’t give your dad a list of projects. Just let him be in peace.” He squinted at me, and said, “I am going to give you a little break because you don’t have girls, (we have 5 sons), but that is my baby girl, so just do yourself a favor and get out of my way.” It was later that I understood that is the way that Max showed love to Maxine and how Maxine received love from her dad.
I have learned a lot from this gentleman over the last twenty-four years. I learned how to converse during a game or during a movie in the theater, properly pack your bags around a trunk of produce, skillfully give away copious amounts of potatoes, how to talk to anyone, even if they don’t want to talk to you, how to go on a trip at a moment’s notice, how to hitch-hike, and the secret to being a great fathers to sons. Quirky, idiosyncratic, distinctive, unique and totally genuine. Mad respect to someone that just did his thing. By the way, did I tell you that he helped us constantly through years of school and starting a business? My family would not be my family, my life would not be my life and I’d have never made it without this man in my life.
A famous author once wrote a book called Rich Dad and Poor Dad. I didn’t have that. In my life I have Dad #1 and Dad #2 and I am feeling very lucky because both my dads lived really good lives. Different people, different careers, different families but they both worked incredibly hard, did their best and were comfortable in their own skin. Both dads left it all out on the field in the game of life, winners. It wasn’t enough to be successful, they helped everyone around them. I just realized what I wrote. I am a lucky son of a gun.
If you are reading this and you didn’t have a father figure like Dad 1 or Dad 2, then be the dad you wanted your dad to be. One night a father heard his son pray, “Dear God, make the me kind of man my daddy is.” Later that night, the father prayed, “Dear God, make me the kind of many my son wants me to be.”
It’s never too late. Be. Have. Do.
It’s hard to make predictions about the future. All of the sudden you look up and realize that the stuff that matters we might have taken for granted. Well, at least today, I didn’t take one of my most important relationships for granted. Some people don’t believe in heroes, but they haven’t met my 2nd Dad, ‘pops.’
Disease doesn’t define you. For the last two decades, my 2nd Dad taught me that circumstances don’t define you. If you want to be a success in life, then go get it. #Grit. #Rolemodel #Hardwork #Dad
And now you know one of my heroes, Max Hanks.
Dr Jason West
15 February 2018