Today is my Dad’s 86th birthday, 86 years old and I am so proud that he is my dad but also am a little sad about this. You see and you might have gleaned this from looking back on our previous posts but I am an accident baby. My oldest Sister is 23 years older than me and the space between me and my closest in age sibling is 18 years. That’s 18 years less of time that I get to learn from my dad compared to my siblings and he has had such an amazing life. While I might not get all of the details exact, they are the information that I have heard from him over time with some short stories interjected along the way.
SO….86 years ago, my father was born, the second oldest and first son of the family of eventually seven. His older sister would be the only female of the family and he would be the oldest boy of 3 additional brothers yet to come. Born and started out life in Jackson, Michigan but as you read in There Must Be A Genetic Component to Crazy they soon moved out to Spring Arbor and the shenanigans commenced to living life in a more rural area. One such tale gleaned from a video taken in a hotel lobby involving a lot of liquor after a long day of remembrance for his older sister memorial involved the following.
It was a cold winter day when Junior was five years old and there was an undisclosed hill that demanded to be tackled for sledding purposes. Older sister and he were taking turns going down the hill on the sled when the older and wiser sister of course had a brilliant idea. If “you” sit on the front of the sled, I can then get it going and on the back of the sled and we can go down together and not have to wait. More sledding obviously equals more fun so they were both on board with the idea…until they weren’t. Things started smoothly enough, blades of the sled deftly cutting through the white blanket when the unbalanced weight of a 5 and 7 year old then dug the front of the sled into the frozen tundra. Junior stayed in place…Older Sister did not and pushed him into the sled face while being ejected to the pillow-y yet cold down of winter. Blood oozed from his nose…at five years old his first broken nose of many. Now…Disclaimer to the descendants of older sister: My source of this is Junior…not just junior but inebriated junior being supported by two younger brothers. With the broken nose and blood flowing, they retreated back home and as they entered, Ma obviously wanted to know exactly what happened and Older Sister immediately says that Jim did it and blamed him. Jim is immediate younger brother to Junior…who is two years old at the time. According to Junior and brothers, Ma and Pa believe her and attend to junior.
Now other stories stem from his youth such as learning that potatoes are better than apples in some situations, Apples & Automobiles and then there is this story of the stringent nature of obtaining a driver’s license in early 1950’s Michigan. Shortly after coming of driving age, Pa takes Junior to get his license. A spring storm however has occurred and the roads are icy, winds whipping and visibility is highly questionable. That being said it was the day that they went in. Now Junior’s Uncle is the Mayor of Jackson and the entire family is well known throughout the community. When they enter the DMV, the clerks immediately recognize and greet Junior and Senior and inquire as to what they are doing there.
Senior: We’re here to get him his Driver’s License.
Senior: Yep, it’s the day we had free and available.
Clerk: But the roads are horrible for a test today, Senior, Can he drive?
Senior: Of course, that’s why we’re here to get him his license
Clerk: Good enough for me, Fill out this paperwork and lets get your photo taken Junior.
The above is obviously not exact but the version that I have basically been told of how my father never took any tests to get his driver’s license due to poor road conditions.
Now I know some other stories of younger days with very limited / poor details, such as the first date that my dad had with my mom was technically a double date but not with each other. They had met through a young adults group at church while he was at a summer internship in California. My dad was seeing another girl but was friends with my mom. His younger brother was coming into town from the Navy I believe and wanted to know if she would be interested in a double date. She accepted and the rest is history.
Next story I have heard several times but involves work celebrations. Here’s the scene for you: Early 1960’s, what is know known as silicon valley, California but this young aeronautical engineer who would design water systems on the Agena space craft for the Gemini-Agena project was going out to celebrate with his co-workers on the town provided by his employer using taxpayer dollars, wink wink, nudge nudge. The night which occurred then would never happen now and involved lots of fluids and his boss Ray making sure he had enough for the ride home and poured beverages of a certain flammability level into his sports coat pockets for the ride home, coat booze as it shall ever be known as hence forth. It’s the only time that he claims he’s not sure exactly how he got home, but the coat and other clothing items definitely had to be washed after that evening.
As a tangent to this story is a story that this same boss who he was good friends with upon the birth of older sister number two got him a bottle of Jack Daniels to celebrate with. He pledged to him that he would not open the bottle until she was old enough to have the celebratory drink with them. Through life’s twists and turns leading them out of state and back, on her 21st birthday I am told, they had 21 year old Jack Daniels…Not at good as it could have been but non the less.
Other stories I have heard involve the time when the hyper-political nature of working in the aerospace industry took it’s toll and they moved to a dairy farm in New York Mills, MN. Stories range from short like having a water fight between him and four children but he had control of the hose to the following short story. One day, Dad had to climb to the top of the grain silo, for what? I have no clue, I never lived on the farm…Anyways, something happened and he fell, broke his femur, full leg cast. Next day, a child runs into tattle on their father to their mother. Why you may ask? After all it’s not nice to tattle, oh, just that dad is climbing the grain silo again the same way he broke his leg except this time one of the legs is in a full cast.
Then there is the story of the rock concert. Dad gathered the family around and asked if they wanted to go to a rock concert, enthusiasm abounded and the excitement completely palpable…Until the rock concert was disclosed as the fields and they were out to pick out any rocks bigger than their fist that would damage the machinery. Contempt and angst quickly replaced the excitement of deception and lies. But there was nothing to do to get out of it. So all my siblings are out walking the field with a bucket of rocks, adding weight to it as they went until one sister who knows exactly who she is found a rock…a big one. Started to push dirt out of the way to pick it up to find the edges…Can’t find the edges…covers said rock up, no way she can pick it up. Well you can guess what happened…Seriously guess, because that’s the extent that I know of as true laughter can occur now as enough time has elapsed but I think profanity was involved at the time.
But as time passed and I enter the picture, I have my own memories of how amazing my dad is…
This is a man who has made sure he attended as many of our athletic events as humanly possible and helps as much as he could…Even jamming his ring finger that housed a ring his mean sister got him for a high school graduation present. The finger swelled up and had to have the ring cut off. I felt horrible and helped to make sure the ring got fixed for him. It’s been 18 years and he still doesn’t wear the ring and I still feel guilt about that.
This is a man who has thoroughly encouraged my scientific endeavors by getting me a quality chemistry set in the early 90’s taking me to take your daughter to work days where I got to see sneak peeks at the Hubble Telescope and at age 6, yes 6 really through 7th grade enable my desire to grow up to be an astrophysicist. I might not have become an astrophysicist, but we still follow launches, exploration and got to experience the 2017 eclipse together as the path of totality literally was over my place of work. He even helped me tear apart one of my remote control cars to build a to scale sojourner rover that landed on Mars. Let’s also say, he impressed upon me the importance of converting from imperial to metric.
He has shown the importance of getting an education help put you in a better position of life and what a solid work ethic can get you, but also that a formal education isn’t everything and every person deserves respect. Frustratingly, he educated on the value of wants versus needs and I value that knowledge now and there are times that while I know it’s a want and will indulge the want but more often sit and wait and attend to the needs first.
I think the most important memory and concept he has impressed upon me is the value of family. You don’t have to like each other and there maybe times where there is nothing more that you want than to be away from them…But Family has to be the first and foremost thing that you protect and be there for more than anything else on this planet. And Family is not always blood. Family is what you make of it. So many things on this earth are temporary and disposable. Family is not one of those things. You grab onto that and you are there to support your family no matter what. Years may pass or seconds may pass but if you have family in need and you can help / support / be there for them. You tell the temporary things in life to wait and hold on because FAMILY is what matters.
That concept was truly put to the test for us this last year and I think we succeeded and Thank you daddy for teaching me the important lessons in life. Pi r round , Cake r2, Pizza makes everything better especially with Cookies and sundaes, no matter the sport to put the ball in the basket, and hope that we make you proud.