Sunday, June 19, 2011

Recuerdo de Mi Padre

My Dad, "Jack" to ALL who knew him, "went on ahead" in Feb, 2001, just over a year after his "lassie," my mother, had passed. Cigarettes hastened his (their!) demise: he smoked at LEAST a pack/day from 1935 til he quit (at mother's insistence) in the '90s sometime. His former colleagues at the school where he taught said they couldn't remember seeing him, ever, without a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a book. We gave each other cigarettes and books for gift occasions.

He was an inter-collegiate fencer (foil and epee) in his youth. Remember push-button electrical wall switches? He could stand facing the wall with an epee extended, and without any visible effort, just with his wrist, he'd turn the light on, then off, then on, then off, on, off,on, off, so fast you'd almost miss it. Something he taught me from the bouting mat, which stayed with me through now these decades of "fencing" with ideas was: "kill with the first riposte." Don't LET 'EM have a shot at ya...

I take my intellectual eclecticism from his example. Our last conversation, just a few hours before he lapsed into his terminal coma, was about Hawking's "Brief History." It was February. I'd got it for him for Xmas. I had been reading it to him. We were nearly through it. I paused at one point. He said, "Well, perfesser" (it was his way of being proud of me) "Do ya think I'm gonna find out what's what about all about this stuff now?"

I said: "I dunno, Pop. But if you do, you call me!" He laughed and coughed. I closed the book, cuz the rest of my siblings were arriving to say good-bye.

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