It occurred to me some time ago that each one of us is a note to the future via our relationship and connection to our Fathers.
Mine died this past year. Though we were not ostensibly involved in each others daily lives, I felt it the moment he left earth. I had been on the phone with a friend and had commented on it, at what turned out to be that instant. Family¬† connections are like that.
He was a complex mix of Hawaiian mess some times. But under all of the issues associated with being the son of a Hawaiian father came some remarkable lessons and moments and a very strong example of the strength and tenor of the love and responsibility one needs in order to be an effective Father.
My Dad left Hawaii and went to Marquette University In Wisconsin on the GI Bill after serving as a map maker for the military. His camera, a military issue Nikon,¬† is the first one which I ever shot and what I learned Photography on. He mapped Indo China for what would later become Vietnam. I saw the photos¬† of the place pre war.
His career was a heavy one for a waterman from Hawaii. His 200 plus mathematical IQ put him in all manner of places one would never expect this pidgin speaking, athletic ladies man to be. The career points he shared are still surprising to me. Here are some memory captures:
Showing me how to use a slide rule after completing work on the first computer and telling me that one day computers would change everything and everyone would have a number. He explained how that number would carry all our information.
He showed me a photo of the X-15 where he did his first job as a design systems analyst. The image was he and the team on the tarmac with the plane that set the stage for our entry into space.
He showed me a bunch of abalone shells and told me about deep free diving, hopping out the school window and spending the entire day in the water off Waikiki and getting in trouble for it. Told me about rescuing a man one day at Sandy Beach. Told me about surviving a tidal wave and how to do it.
He told me about the strike points for our ICBMs and those pointed at our own country and how many would die. He told me about his nightmares. I remember going¬† to visit him in a mental institution after he had himself committed. I understand why now. He had helped design those.
Watching John Glenn returning to earth on a black and white console television set. My Dad was not there. He was working on the project.
I remember him telling me of how we would go to the moon. And the day he came home late from work and told me of the death of the astronauts who had burned to death that day in a test failure. How he had been one of the first ones in. I remember the look in his eyes. Who knows what he had seen and heard as they burned to death?
I remember him telling me about working burlesque during WW2 in Waikiki. He had helped run the stage. I saw his scrapbook of black and white publicity photos signed by all the girls. I learned the what and why of his middle name, Wahinealoha.
I remember him being pissed off about something at work that his management refused to listen about. Then the horrific crash that killed a plane load of people ten years later.
There was the phone call received the day we had returned to Santa Barbara at the gate at El Capitan beach park which signified a long period of unemployment. My Dad said that the Airbag project was being cancelled and that he would be back with us soon. He was in Detroit and had just developed the system for Ford via Eaton Yale and Town.¬† The cumulative expense of installing the new safety system in every vehicle had caused Detroit to kill the program after it was completed. It was a system that he had been quite excited about as it utilized a sensor technology that he had helped develop.
He never returned to Hawaii. But he found a way to support 6 children in Santa Barbara California and weather some intense career responsibilities.
I never heard a word of complaint about that. Not one.
He never said, do this or do that. I think he just watched. Often I never knew what he thought. The result of this was me becoming my own person at an early age.
I learned what not to do from my Father, but imagine my surprise when I realized this year as my own sons are now grown, that I am my Father.
He taught me what it means to be human.
Here is to a great day to all of you other sons and daughters on a Fathers day.
A video from Barack Obama is here. A Hawaiian.
An informative blog from Peter Mello is here. Written by Pam Fox Rollin for the Weekly Leader.
A song from one of my favorite films is here
Thanks to my cousin Gayle Puu, for her tireless efforts in scanning the family images. I would never have seen a one of them were it not for her.
Click on any of the images in the Gallery for the back story.