For two months I didn’t write in this blog. I didn’t because there was a post that would need to be written first, and I couldn’t bring myself to write it.
Near the end of February, my Daddy passed away after coming down with pneumonia about five days before. He was only 77. Just a week before he’d told me on the phone that he’d be here for my wedding – he planned on living ’til he was at least 90.
I know this isn’t Thursday, but you’ll ignore that little faux pas, right? 🙂 Because I have always been thankful my Daddy is my Daddy, and that I’m his first-born daughter.
He played with chemistry sets with me, even while Mom gritted her teeth, wondering if we’d blow up the house or create noxious fumes that would make everyone sick. He helped me build my first model – the Lunar lander, and my second model – the B-29 Superfortress. (I loved that thing!) He had his big microscope and would set up my small microscope (a real one, not a kid’s toy) next to it and show me cells and things between the glass plates. He would set up the telescope in the backyard and show my little sister and me the moon and the planets in the Oklahoma skies, and repeatedly adjust the focus because the Earth never stands still.
One early, early morning in 1986, Daddy woke me up and got me into the car, curlers in my hair and all, and drove us out past Piedmont and into the country. I remember him getting out of the car and looking up, pointing into the sky and trying to get me out of the car. I stayed in my seat because it was cold and I was half-asleep, but I did see what he was pointing at – Halley’s Comet was overhead. We shared a love of space things, from the lunar landing in December, 1968 (I upstaged the astronauts by “discovering” my hands as a baby right then), to the Voyager launches, and the first Space Shuttle launch, as well as all sorts of science fiction shows. When I would babble on about extra-terrestrials as a kid, he would listen and tell me “I don’t see why not”.
I remember being around three years old in Minnesota, and standing in his basement darkroom. Plastic trays filled with developer chemicals and water were on the counter, exposed film and drying photographs hung neatly from a line overhead. Dad was focusing another photo on some paper with the machine that always looked to me like part of an elephant’s trunk. The chemicals made the room smell metallic in a way, but I loved it. When we moved to Oklahoma, he would set up his darkroom equipment in the kitchen at night, and pull a dining chair over so I could stand on the seat and help him swish the developing photos in the solutions with the huge rubber-tipped tongs. By this time I had already outgrown the small Kodak Instamatic camera I’d been given when I was five, and had my own Kodak to match my parents’ Konica cameras. It was heavy, but I loved it! He had his own camera shop for awhile – I can even point out where it was to this day, and then he had his own photography school for a couple years.
My Daddy was the only one who really understood why I wanted to live in Los Angeles, and why I had no qualms about moving to Ohio. He understood that I don’t just want to take little trips every now and then, but I want to live different places, experience different things. He lived all over the world in the 50s as part of the US Air Force Photography Corps. He jumped out of planes that were going down (and nearly got killed when his parachute didn’t want to open in Japan!) and saw all sorts of things. When he worked in Houston for a television station, he met The Beatles and filmed some of the last footage of President Kennedy, the day before he was killed.
So many things I never got to know about him, but so many things I did know, and that he understood about me. I was supposed to be born on his birthday, even, but decided to come exactly a week early – maybe that’s why we understood each other.