I had a Gogo. If you had met him, you’d wish you had a Gogo too.
My Ukrainian heritage dictated that I had a Gido (Ukrainian for grandfather). Except when I was little, I couldn’t say Gido. I called him Gogo (pronounced Go-Go). A nickname that started with me, got picked up by my brother, and then the 6 other grandkids and 2 great grandkids after that. Gogo he always was. Maybe it was because Gogo rolled off the tongue pretty easily, or maybe it was because he just couldn’t be anything else. Gogo simply stuck.
I feel pretty lucky to be one of the few people in this world to have had a Gogo, or Gog for short. I learned a lot from this wise, energetic man and thought that with his recent passing, it would be smart to share what I learned from Gogo.
The price is never the price.
Gogo was a self-made farmer and bartered and bargained for everything. At auction sales, private deals, even at the grocery store. I went with Gog once to do the grocery shopping because Baba was sick. He looked at the prices for things like sandwich meat, sour cream and chips as starting points. In his mind the prices were all too high and he asked any employee who would listen to give him a better deal. I was 14 at the time, and completely embarrassed that he behaved this way. I thought, “The price is the price, just pay!”. But Gogo knew that price is never final, and he always walked away with a deal. I thought it was a perspective particular to Gog, but over the years, have also come to see that price isn’t always the price. While I would never try to barter at the grocery store, I have learned from Gog that asking sometimes means getting.
Never stop moving.
Gogo ran a large cattle operation, had a beautiful wife, 5 kids and community obligations (he was an Elk). Yet the man was always on the move, always on the go. Every year, he took my brother and I to Klondike Days and always came down the big slide with us, several times, even though he was in his 60′s. He had a game we played at his house called Cat and Mouse. He was always the cat, and we were always the mice. I cannot tell you how terrifying it was for us mice to be chased through the house Gogo the cat. It dawned on me the other day that Gogo was running and chasing some of my younger cousins when he was his 80′s. Gog even worked out on a stationary bike in his seniors home up until just a few years ago. Keep on moving and you keep on living.
Women make a better sales pitch than men.
If you were a woman in the family, and it was Tuesday night just before supper, and the phone was ringing, you knew it was Gogo. He was calling and looking for a female family member, quite often me, to call into The Trading Post, a CFCW radio show where farmers and others could make short radio pitches to sell their livestock or machinery. He would beg and plead with me to call and try to get on and say we had “good looking Charolais bulls for sale”. He was smart. He knew that he got more inquiries when one of us girls called, and always tapped us with the distinct honour. Because really, what farmer wouldn’t want to buy Charolais bulls from a cute-sounding girl? It’s a lesson I have carried into my PR career. Often the most compelling, credible voice on a pitch isn’t always the expert or the top dog, and hard messages are better delivered by women.
Treat your possessions like the crown jewels.
Gogo attended a lot of auctions and sales, and bought a lot of things. Junk to most people. Including my Baba and most of our family. But to Gog, they were treasures. A visit to his little office/house at the farm always incited a show-and-tell of sorts, where he would display all of the latest, greatest and priceless treasures he had bought. He truly believed everything he had was valuable. That necklace must be made of gold. The picture frame had to be real bronze. That broach was full of real diamonds. No matter what the trinket, or how tacky it might appear, he saw value. Maybe the view came from having very little when he was young. Whatever the reason, he valued and appreciated every single thing he had, because they came to him as the by-product of hard work.
Give lunch the respect it deserves. Call it dinner.
Lunch never existed in Gogo’s house. Lunch was always called dinner. And dinner it was. Full meal, hot, sit down at the table, complete with some kind of dessert. If you are wondering what night-time dinner was….well, it was always just supper. With hectic schedules, it is easy to not give lunch (or any meal) the respect it deserves. But Gog was as busy as they come, and he always made the time to sit down and enjoy a real meal.
Laugh with people, not at them.
Gogo used to mess with my head when I was a kid. If something came out in jest or humorously in conversation, he would always ask, “Are you laughing with me, or at me?” Not knowing the finer points of grammar at a young age, the question always scared me, and I didn’t want to give the wrong answer. But since his passing, our family has told many stories about Gog and most of them resulted in laughter. In hindsight, I see that the right and honest answer always was that I was laughing with him.
Take seriously the stories you tell kids (and write them down).
When we stayed overnight at my Baba and Gogo’s house in Vegreville, my Gogo always told us the next “chapter” in this never-ending epic Ukrainian fairy tale that he invented. The story was about a man named Heroshick Boboshick and it was essentially a tale about two friends. He incorporated sound effects and Ukrainian words for extra special impact. I still remember parts of the story to this day, but not enough to share it with the current young peanuts in my life. You would never think the make-believe tales you tell kids today will hang with them for decades. But when they are delivered with passion and a little flare, they do.
I regret that no one ever took the time to write down Gog’s grand stories. With his death, I realize that he himself was one great story. Like all of us are, if we take the time to pause and see the chapters unfolding.
So, consider this post a lesson learned. A wee part of Gogo’s story carries on.