My dad

Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Essay | 15 comments

My dad

One of most fond memories of my dad were on my inauguration into teen-hood, my 13th birthday, in February 1969.  I don’t recall any of my gifts save for one. I opened up a card from dad, and it was a “ticket” to go out to Florida and see an Apollo launch. I had to choose one of two. The first was the May Apollo 10 mission, when dad was going back to Florida on business. He was planning on stopping by at the Cape and seeing the Apollo 10 launch while there. However, he also offered me a chance instead to go out by myself and see the next one, Apollo 11. Total no-brainer. I took the second one of course (unfortunately my pix never came out of the actual launch).

This was dad. Last Friday morning at about 7AM the Earth flickered just a bit as my father passed away, age 92.

He never came across as a particularly “deep person.” We rarely had conversations that transcended much above our current interests, events in Washington, or how school went. In the recent years I asked him for any words of wisdom from someone rapidly nearing the century mark. He had trouble coming up with anything profound enough for me to actually remember. But his life and examples were all I really needed.

Born a scant 18 years after the Wright brothers first flew, and while still an infant, he, grandpa and grandma voyaged to India as missionaries. His folks started a small clinic which decades later would be a 250-bed hospital. Dad told us of how if he or his brother had to get up in the middle of the night, grandpa would have to check for snakes before the boys were permitted to place feet on the floor. Or how grandpa personally knew Ghandi. He was 7 when they returned to the US.

This was dad

Dad ultimately would choose dentistry as a profession followed by joining the Navy because “they had nicer looking uniforms.”

That was dad.

The first girl he ever dated was the only girl he dated. (They would be married just a few weeks short of 60 years before she passed away.) In 1945 he left to join “the greatest generation” for the last 6 months of the War in the Pacific on an attack transport, shuttling fresh troops to Iwo Jima (now in US hands) and returning others back to the states.

That was dad.

When he was out of the Navy, he would still continue serving: first as dentist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Nevada (helping those who others refused to), then as the first dentist in Sunnyvale, California, where one of his patients is some kid named “Woz.”  (I wonder if he ever made good?) In his “spare” time he would found the highly regarded Foothill – De Anza Community College district. During the first week of every new school year, he’d make note to walk around the campus to watch the students register because of the “thrill” he had to see the difference the school could make. He would serve the district for 35 years. (Incidentally, it was at the Flint Center at De Anza College, where the original 128k Macintosh said its very first hello).

That was dad.

In 1981 we had special VIP passes to see the landing of STS-1, the very first space shuttle mission. The viewing site had us standing amongst Apollo astronauts, senators, actors, and even Roy Rogers. In the hotel restaurant the day before, he was yakking with our waiter about the flight, and then invited him to join us. I wonder how many people would have thought of that?

One year Maggie Thatcher came out to speak at De Anza College. After her talk, he asked her if she had any dinner plans. Since she did not, mom and dad took her out to a local Marie Callenders’ .

That was dad.

Even in retirement he had to help others by sending refurbished hospital equipment to bush clinics in Africa, or pharmaceuticals to Russian hospitals.

That was dad.

There are striding among us “great” people and great people. The former rarely are, and the latter? Well, they never think they are. Dad belonged to the second group (and mom as well).

From taking a world leader to a local chain restaurant, to inviting a random waiter to witness one of the most historic events of the 80s, that was dad.

At 92, I think he had a good run. Now it was time for him to rest. He deserves it more then many.

One of the last times I spoke to him I made him promise to give mom a message should he see her before me. The message was “The Giants did it!”

I know he will.