Monday, June 21, 2010

What My Father Gave To Me

My dad was descendant from Nordic and German stock, which translated into English means that he worked extremely hard at everything he did. Although achieved later in life, I get my work ethic from him.

In high school, he wasn’t much into sports, but could outrun most of the track team. He did high diving, until he broke his eardrums. I could always picture, in my mind, all six feet of him jack-knifing from 20 feet in the air. He was an excellent swimmer and tried to teach all of us how to do the crawl. I wasn’t much interested in learning how to swim properly; I was more interested in climbing onto his stomach as he floated there on his back with even his toes sticking out of the water. I get my buoyancy from him.

At 19, he enlisted in the Marines. Looking dapper in his uniform, he met my mom at Cal Berkeley at a social event. They danced, and romanced, and later they wrote. The jitterbug was his favorite. I get my sense of rhythm from him.

After the war, he came back and, with a fever and temperature of 103, was married to Margery May Fowler, his redheaded true love from Berkeley. They moved to Seattle, where, on the GI Bill, he went to the University of Washington and got an Electrical Engineering degree. He had wanted to be an architect and work with his contractor-father, but his dad had died suddenly of a heart attack a few years earlier and his dream of building a business with his dad had died as well. I get my ability to overcome adversity from him.

They made plenty of friends during these early years in Washington, and for entertainment, they would flip their living room coffee table on its side, and all sit on the floor to use it as a net for balloon volleyball.  I get my playful nature from him.

After college, he was hired by Pacific Bell, and entered on a management “fast track”. As our family grew so did the number of times we moved: Washington, California, Washington (where I came along), New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, Oregon, Washington, then, finally, Oregon. He was able to hold us all together even though our roots were not allowed to grow very deep. I get my wanderlust from him.

Higher and higher in management he went. This had its perks for our family. We got the first Princess phone, the first push-button phone, the first intercom connected to a phone system, eventually we each got a phone in our own room; we got to see what silicon discs were cut from, we got to see the first micro-chips; the wonders never ceased. I couldn’t wait for each new invention to make its way into my dad’s hands to be shared with our tiny minds.  I get my tech savvy-ness from him.

One of my fondest memories is of watching my dad construct a train table for “us”. This was a massive affair made from two-by-fours and plywood. It cleverly hinged in the middle so that the whole thing could be easily folded up and rolled out of the way. He spent hours gluing grass and roads. He constructed little houses, tiny train stations, miniature car garages, and small stores. Trees of different species were selected and placed.  Tiny villagers were hand-painted in the many hues of ethnic diversity. Ahh, the smell of those model paints was intoxicating (probably literally). I’m not sure about my sisters, but I claimed a favorite house, car, and even miniature people. Each item had a special place on the table and I remembered being insistent that each time we set it up everything had to go back where it belonged. I get my attention to detail from him.

Eventually my dad retired but things did not slow down for him. Not only did he spend many hours on various boards and committees, but also had a role in a cutting-edge technology start-up company. Imagine storing information from your computer on a thin round disc that could be erased and written on again! Too bad it was before its time. This technology (CDs and DVDs) eventually hit the market about 8 years later. My dad was always ahead of the curve. I get my entrepreneurial ideals from him.

I could stand before you today and talk for hours about what an outstanding father, mentor, and friend my dad was. He always had a smile and hug for anyone he met. His generosity was epic, his capacity to love, endless. He laughed with us and allowed us to drag him on “adventures”. He once let us talk him into trying some toffee, which, after one prolonged un-sticking of the first bite, pulled the bridge right out of his mouth. In true form, he laughed right along with the rest of us. I get my joy and appreciation for humor from him.

There are other traits and talents that my father had that I wished I had acquired: patience, tolerance, acceptance, the ability to complete tasks, ambidexterity, a low golf handicap, the ability to tan, and last but not least, the ability to do the crawl.

He is one-of-a-kind and will be missed by everyone who knew him. He played with us, he taught us, he respected us, he laughed with us, he encouraged us, he applauded us, and he supported us. We could not have asked for a more loving father and all of us are truly blessed to have had his influence in our lives.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Making sense of the census

I am dutiful and law abiding. That is why, when I got my census questionnaire in the mail and reading that it would only take me ten minutes to fill it out, I sat down immediately and divulged all of my intimate secrets.

How many in my household? One, plus two dogs I consider my babies, and way too many crawly things. Income? Yes, but not enough. Heritage? Yep, got plenty of that. There. Done with that… and there it sat, on my table for another week. Then I realized there was free postage on that envelope. I scooped it up and dropped it in the mailbox. Finally, a citizen in good standing. I could now say that I helped build schools, playgrounds, hospitals, roads, improved the infrastructure of my community, and left my genealogical footprint.

So, why was there a flyer on my front door yesterday saying that “Michael” had stopped by from the Census Bureau to help me fill out my census? Oh, maybe because in my rush to utilize Federal dollars to mail a letter I forgot to actually place my filled out census form into it!

Educational level? Apparently wasted.