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Lessons from My Dad: Interlude

I thought it would be nice for you to have more context about who my Dad was.  My Dad was the only boy born to his extended  family for quite some time.  All of his aunts doted on him constantly.  So much so that they even named one their children, Geraldine, after my father!  (Serendipitously, it was this Geraldine who introduced me to my wife; more on that later.)  I wouldn't say that Dad could do no wrong.  Rather, no matter what he did, it was chalked up to being another one of those things that made Jerry so charming.  One of the more  "charming" anecdotes was about the time my grandparents went away for the weekend and told my Dad, "no parties".  His mother would recount how she came home to find one of Dad's friend's "asleep" (that's how she put it) in the bathtub!  She was always smiling when she told the story.  Dad was more amused (proud?) than chagrined.

Dad (largely due to incidents such as that) enlisted in the navy when he was seventeen.  His mother didn't want him to go; his father couldn't sign the permission papers fast enough.  He chose the navy because his father pointed out to him that on a ship he would always have a clean bed at night.  His mother gave him two instructions: no tatoos and don't bring home a Korean wife (it was 1951 or so and the middle of the Korean conflict).  Dad obeyed his mother.  He did bring home a nice set of fine china from Japan (which we now use for our Passover dishes).  He also won enough money paying pinochle to buy himself a car when he got home.  The only other notable accomplishment was to earn a Purple Heart by falling off an airplane wing that he was painting (he was on an aircraft carrier).  I should point out that I never actually saw the medal. On the one hand it sounds like the kind of joke he would tell, on the other hand is sounds very much like something he would have done...

 Upon Dad's return to civilian life, he got married.  Dad love being married, he just had trouble finding his soul mate.  That first marriage last about a month; he came home one day to find everything gone -- nothing left but the bare walls and beds (which had been stripped).  I never would have known about it except that I found the decree of divorce once day while cleaning the garage.  (Here's a tip: if you have something you don't want the kids to find, get rid of it; they'll find it.)  Dad was very good natured about the whole thing and it became something of a family joke with my children.  We all called her "the smart one"; even Jan (his last wife and true soul mate).  On that topic, my Dad was married four times: the smart one, my mother, an interloper, and Jan.  On reflection, I realize that Jan was the first woman he married just because he loved her.  They were together for 26 years and the last eight years of his life they were together constantly -- going skiing, biking, traveling, and generally just hanging out together.

So Dad's second marriage was to my mother to be a father to me.  He surely had that responsibility thrust on him earlier than expected, but he "stood up to the plate", as it were.  It should be noted that Dad never gave me the slightest inkling that he "had" to get married; I only know because when I was 16 I asked Dad why we never celebrated his and Mom's wedding anniversary.  In any case, he finished college, worked as an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry (making missiles), and generally provided for his family (myself, followed by a brother and then a sister).  Around 1970 there were big layoffs in the aerospace industry and Dad just scraped through.  That's when I saw him make the first big change in his life.  Dad figured that in 10 years there would be another round of layoffs and he'd be older, making more money, still only an average achiever, and therefore that much more attractive to be let go.  So he found a business he could afford to buy (Mac Tools) in a location he wanted (Lake Tahoe) and started over.  I am not sure how much he consulted with my mother about where to move; he loved the outdoors, so living in Tahoe was a dream come true for him.  Mom; not so much.  We all moved into a small apartment at Lake Tahoe and started new schools while Dad worked on building a profitable business.  He became very successful.

Those next 10 years or so were the second big transition in my Dad's life.  We kids -- the glue that held my parent's marriage together -- were getting older and started moving out.  Mom was increasingly unhappy with the outdoorsy lifestyle of Tahoe.  Dad was increasingly more independent.  So over that 10 years, Dad transitioned from an average electrical engineer with a young family in Southern California to a very successful tool salesman with just a (new) wife in Lake Tahoe.  (There was a third marriage in there, but it was about as significant in the long run as his first marriage; it deserves no more than this parenthetical remark.)  That is where he lived out, very happily I might add, the last couple of decades of his life.

There is certainly more to say (and I plan to...), but this is adequate to give you some historical context.


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