My father David died last night, at the age of 91. Like most fathers and sons, we had a complex relationship, and we didn't always understand each other. But there was never any doubt about the love between us. And I always knew he was a good man.
Today, I would like to share some memories of him:
I remember riding on your shoulders while you would run through the park on a Sunday afternoon.
I remember that dinner was always better when you were home early from work to eat with us.
I remember how you would go straight to the bathroom, when getting home from work, to change into a sweatshirt and pajama bottoms. Sometimes, Ma would follow you in there and close the door behind her. I remember the sound of giggling and laughter.
I remember you having a chicken pot pie or guava paste and Velveeta on a cracker as your dinner when you would get home late. I remember wishing that I could have what you were having.
I remember, as a little boy, running up to you as you walked through the door after work and kissing you on the cheek. I remember one night, long after I had outgrown that ritual, when I forgot that I was too old to do that anymore and ran up to you almost instinctively. I remember the look of shocked delight on your face when I kissed you on the cheek that night!
I remember you teaching me how to ride a bicycle, even though you didn’t know how to ride a bicycle yourself.
I remember coming downstairs to use the bathroom late at night and seeing you lying on the couch, reading Civil War books or poring over baseball statistics.
I remember when you started sharing your passion for baseball with me. I remember the first time you told me about your favorite player, Lou Gehrig, and about the heroic way that he lived and died. Very quickly, he became my favorite baseball player, too.
I remember the afternoon you took Danny and me to our first major league baseball game at Sick Stadium. We went there to watch one of your heroes, Detroit Tigers slugger Al Kaline (whom you called “alkaline”), play the Seattle Pilots. I remember how disappointed we were when we found out that alkaline wasn’t playing that day.
I remember how you would sit in the back yard for hours, pulling up clover by hand. I remember wondering what was so bad about clover.
I remember you buying me my first Beatles record for my seventh birthday. Even though you didn’t know much about the Beatles, you still managed to pick out Rubber Soul. I remember thinking: Great choice, Pa!
I remember you going out on Sunday mornings to buy bagels and rolls for our family brunch—a ritual we all relished and rarely missed. I remember how exciting it was when you would return home with bags of fresh bread in your arms.
I remember you taking me to my first Sonics’ game when I was an 8-year-old Cub Scout and my whole troop went. That was the night I started my lifelong love affair with basketball.
I remember the two of us going to some amazing basketball games, when the Sonics would pull out miraculous last-second victories. I remember thinking you loved basketball as much as I did because you would cheer for the Sonics as enthusiastically as I did. Years later, I found out that you weren’t really all that into basketball, and yet you never let on. I remember thinking it was only fair, because I was never really all that into baseball, and I also never let on.
I remember coming to the conclusion that if you were awakened from deep sleep in the middle of the night and asked to name the five greatest meals of your life, you could probably rank them in order while describing each one in great detail.
I remember how consistent you were in your passions: your love for the Benny Goodman trio and quartet, or the movie Some Like it Hot.
I remember your intense nostalgia for Cuba: Varadero beach or your favorite Chinese restaurant, the Nanking. I remember the sadness in your voice when you would recount how the once vast menu at the Nanking had been reduced to almost nothing within a year after Castro came to power.
I remember the family vacations you would plan for us: taking the train to Chicago; driving down the coast to California; my first airplane ride, on a Braniff flight to Texas; and plenty of visits to Miami Beach.
I remember the first time we arrived in Miami, a few days before the first moon landing in July 1969. We stepped outside of our South Beach hotel, the Sagamore, on a warm tropical night, and right away, you ran into a friend from Cuba that you hadn’t seen in years. Then we walked to an all-night deli and had watermelon at midnight. I remember thinking how exotic and wonderful that all was!
I remember how resourceful you and Ma had to be in planning my Bar Mitzvah at a time when the Seattle economy was depressed and nobody had much money. The festivities included two parties at the house and a group outing to a Sonics’ game.
I remember you buying me a blue-and-gold jacket for my 14th birthday that I would wear every time I would go out to play sports. I still have that jacket!
I remember how proud I was of you when Sears named you its “Salesman of the Year” for the entire West Coast. I knew what it must have taken for someone who was still learning the language to accomplish that feat: a combination of charm, intelligence, and lots of hard work!
I remember you generously agreeing to pay my college tuition and to give me $100 a month for living expenses. I was able to complete my undergraduate education without a penny of debt, thanks to you. It also helped that in-state tuition only cost $660 a year back then!
I remember when I considered transferring from the University of Washington to Evergreen for my junior year. You and I drove to Olympia in a rainstorm. Just as we arrived on the Evergreen campus, the clouds parted and all the hippy kids poured out of the buildings to sun themselves and play hacky-sack on Red Square. At that moment, I knew that Evergreen was the place for me. You were not as convinced.
I remember the trip we took down the West Coast in the fall of 1981 when you and Ma helped me move to Santa Cruz to start graduate school there. Our first night in Santa Cruz, we had dinner at a crepe place, where you created your own crepe filled with shrimp and Swiss gruyere cheese. I remember you raving about that crepe for years to come.
I remember how shaken you were when my maternal grandfather Victor died. I could see how much you looked up to him, which meant a lot to me because I adored him then and I still do.
I remember how impressed I was when you struck up a friendship with the father of my girlfriend, Jenny. I remember being even more impressed that you maintained the friendship long after Jenny and I broke up.
I remember making relaxation tapes for you that you played every night to help you fall asleep. It felt great to know that I could help you in some way with the knowledge I had gained and the things I was passionate about.
I remember you and Ma coming to Tucson for the first time during my second year in graduate school there. You came to spend winter vacation with me and to see my first home, which I had bought earlier that year. I remember you not feeling well; you were experiencing indigestion and constant stomach pain. Two months later, you were diagnosed with stomach cancer. After surgery and chemo, the cancer went into remission permanently. I remember that being very good news, indeed!
I remember you being in attendance for several of my talks and presentations, including two book tour events in Seattle. I remember how proud and appreciative I felt to have you there.
I remember your enthusiasm for travel deals and especially sales on cruises. I remember you continuing to search the travel websites long after your health made it hard for you to travel.
I remember asking you what you wanted for your 90th birthday, and you answered, without a moments’ hesitation: “Family cruise to Alaska.” On that cruise, I made a decision that would change my life forever. I went dancing by myself every night on board the ship, and I promised myself that I would take myself dancing as soon as I got back to Tucson. My first night back from the trip, I met and fell in love with my fiancée, Maria, while at a dance.
I remember the day in Ketchikan, Alaska, when you and I snuck away for one last outing—just the two of us. I pushed your wheelchair up a steep hill so that we could go watch the salmon spawning and visit a totem pole museum.
I remember Ma telling me on several occasions that you would do anything for me and would give me the shirt off your back. I never doubted that for a moment.
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