My dad’s struggle is over at last. He died Sunday evening, the 1st of May, at the age of 84, his wife by his side. I am so grateful that I had an opportunity in recent years to spend a little more time with him, and especially that I was able to say goodbye a few weeks ago. So it seems like the perfect time to write a post honoring and remembering my dad, highlighting those ways he influenced or inspired me.
I was looking through a photo album for the picture of Dad that you see above, and also found this one, the wedding photo of Dad’s parents, which I’m including mostly because it’s one of my favorite family photos.
Don’t you love it? The lace, the Harry Potter glasses, the bouquet with the streaming ribbons. And, seriously? How fab is that braided headband?
But now, out of the photo studio and into the woods . . . . Some of my earliest memories are of family hikes in the state parks of the American Midwest, mostly Indiana. Dad was a dedicated hiker, even up until just a few years ago, but it was never about just the fresh air and exercise. For him to really enjoy it, he had to know as many arcane details as possible about the history of an area, the flora, the fauna, the geology, whatever. And he would be delighted to share this information with anyone who’d listen. You just had to have a spare hour or so. My brothers and I learned not to ask him any question, no matter how seemingly simple, unless we had at least half an hour. Still, his enthusiasm was endearing, if not always completely contagious. I can’t identify many trees, but I do love the hardwood forests.
I think my dad also passed on to me, if not exactly a LOVE of math, at least a reasonable aptitude for it. You’ve probably never met anyone as excited about a slide rule as he could be (and you certainly won’t in THIS century). Although I always preferred the crisp, clean lines and logic of geometry, math skills do come in handy sometimes, so thanks, Dad.
Dad also had a deep appreciation for classical music, a taste as children we did not share, especially since our main exposure to it was by way of a static-filled University of Illinois radio station during the seemingly interminable half-hour drive to church in downtown Indianapolis, crammed into the backseat and wearing our scratchy, uncomfortable church clothes. On the plus side, he had quite an album collection, so I pretty much aced every Music Memory test during my years in the Indianapolis public school system, and I always did love acing tests. Ironic, in light of my early loathing, that I would choose to get a degree in music and develop a love for nearly all genres of music, including classical.
But probably the most inspiring thing about Dad was his refusal to ever give up. For as long as possible, my dad was not one to let age keep him from his goals. He earned his MBA at 41 and was nearly 60 when he earned his doctorate. Then, after many years as an industrial engineer, followed by a few years as an adjunct professor, he traveled and worked his third career as a Contract Auditor / Trainer / Consultant for ISO 9001 (and several others with more letters and numbers than you could possibly be interested in wading through). He continued this until age 80, when the company wouldn’t send him out on any more assignments. I never did succeed in convincing him it was perfectly reasonable to be retired by the time you’re in your 80’s. Not sure I can live up to this one, Dad!
But now he’s gone. Our house is filled with flowers . . .
. . . courtesy of kind friends and family.
Expressing love was not his strong suit–too much engineer brain, maybe–but the message eventually got through. And I’m pretty sure he’s the only person who has ever called me Princess and meant it as an affectionate nickname and not an insult!
Goodbye, dear Dad. You will always be in my heart.
The song is ended but the melody lingers on…
—Sir Walter Scott