Sweaty Spice, the other Spice Girl

Regular readers will recall that my father had been in the deadly grasp of Alzheimer’s for the last several years. I have been dutifully making the trek to visit two or three times a year to see the husk of what he once was be ravished by this heinous disease.

Alas, in late March, about 2 weeks after I visited to celebrate his 89th birthday, I got the call that was always just over the horizon, that he had passed quietly during the night.

During a better time, 2006, Tucson, AZ.
During a better time, 2006, Tucson, AZ.

At last the disease had performed its final indignity, but at least my father was at peace. If I was honest, when I visited at Thanksgiving last year, I had known that the end was coming sooner rather than later.

That doesn’t make it any easier though.

Today, May 2, 2022, we are having a small memorial service to spread his ashes near where he lived for the last 30 years, off of Point Loma in San Diego. I am sure I will be a blubbering mess. I have things I want to say, but I am sure I won’t be able to even speak, so I will write them.

Dueling Banjos

Many of my early recollections of my dad were of him playing the Banjo. He had an old banjo that he bought probably in the 1950’s when he was in school. Regaling us with renditions of “Old Susanna”, and other folk classics, he put his heart into it, but at the base, he could take printed music and play it.

After I started playing guitar, he confided in me once that he saw the sheet music for “Dueling Banjos”, and bought it, $3 well spent.

Or so he thought.

The music was about 12 bars of the opening riffs, and then stated boldly “140 bars of improvisation”. Alas, my father wasn’t going to learn Dueling Banjos.

The Camera

My dad was a bit of a shutterbug. My earliest memories were of his with a twin lens reflex camera, you know that boxy thing with a look down viewfinder, and loaded up with 120 film rolls.

Me and my Sister, circa 1969
Me and my Sister, circa 1969

Anyhow, vacations, trips to the park, and even one extended session in the back yard with my grandfather beam, some household items (I distinctly recall the laundry detergent box) and dozens of rolls of Kodachrome to explore the various settings, metering, and exposure bracketing (coupled with copious amounts of beer).

Later he had a few different Nikon SLR’s and as far as I can tell, only film, cameras.

Tracey's Birthday Party at Farrell's
Tracey's Birthday Party at Farrell's

A couple of years ago, as his memory was really failing, I grabbed a box of old pictures, and scanned them. Many of them were pre-parental divorce vacation snaps, with my mother and siblings. There were quite a few not long after the divorce of the sibs and I on our visitation weekends. At the park, at the pool, and the usual mementos.

The computer

My dad spent most of his career at Sperry and Lockheed Missiles and Space, where he worked in the “computers” group. I was never sure what that meant, growing up, but it sounded cool to me.

Every year, there was an open house at Lockheed, and we would see the lab, and get ASCI art (often period piece items like Snoopy).

After his retirement, he plowed a lot of time into a program he called “Nodes”. He was writing an environment to replicate the analog computers that he had worked with before the digital revolution happened. Nodes were things like integrators, differentiators, multipliers, multiplexers, and the like.

I have the disks from his computer, and one day I will connect them and see if I can grab his source code. I am sure I will not be able to compile it, but it will be good to have it.

Final notes

I have been in tears for much of this post, and I am sure I will be a blubbering idiot this afternoon, but alas, it is who I am, and the influence of the man we are honoring with the memorial that I am like this.

So long pop, you are missed.

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