Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Father

My Father
Clarence “Andy” Anderson
1896 - 1964

He was 68 when he died a few months after Scott was born. He never got to see his grandson. Or any of my other children. He would have loved them and they would have loved him in return. A man of remarkable skills and talents with wide-ranging interests, he taught me so much of value. I am only now realizing what gifts he gave me.

His deep-rooted concern for the earth and for protecting the world around him pre-dated the current environmental movement, and was, in fact, ahead of the curve called “conservation” even back in the forties. He knew the names of trees, and plants, and flowers, and taught these to me on our walks. He taught me to walk. I don’t mean toddle. I mean walk to enjoy all the wonders of our neighborhood. He knew the history of houses and architecture, he knew where our water came from, he knew what weather was coming from watching the clouds in the sky and the birds in flight. We walked together almost every day all through my childhood and those rambles now live in my memory as very special times.

By profession he was an engineer. By avocation he was an artist. These talents together enabled him to supplement his income by making detailed drawings to accompany patent applications. This resulted in a parade of rather strange inventors through our living room and the assembly of unidentifiable machines on the back porch. In his spare time, he “tinkered” in his workshop in the basement where he kept a short wave radio, a 24-hour GMT clock, a Morse code transmitter and an assortment of art materials for making his “illuminations.” At night he laid on his back out in the yard and watched the constellations. He read Latin and Greek and had an incredible library of classical literature. He knew all the great myths and most of the stories of the Bible. He could quote Shakespeare and often referred to Socrates and Plato.

He taught me Latin and tried to teach me Greek. I learned Morse code and the names of all the constellations and the mythology that went with them. I learned the names of most things living including trees, plants, flowers, birds, animals, bugs, fish, snakes. And things not living like rocks, mountains, machines. He taught me to read and to appreciate literature. He taught me to draw and get the perspective correct. He taught me to use a slide rule. He taught me the principle of internal combustion. And nuclear fission and fusion. He taught me to make a fire and other survival skills. He taught me to use a map and compass. He sang old Celtic ballads in Gaelic and knew the words to many Broadway shows.

After I left home for college, he walked with his beloved collie, Boss. After that dog died, he gave a home to Skipper, a Llewellyn setter, who was a staunch companion after his stroke. No one but his close family knew that he was deaf. He lost his hearing as a small child due to an ear infection. (Pre-antibiotics.) He wore a hearing aid, read lips, and faked it. He was a ferocious advocate for the handicapped long before they had come out of the back bedroom into the public eye.

Today, I salute him, my wonderful father who made it possible for me to enjoy life the way I do. He taught me to find joy in every day, love the world I live in, and be compassionate to the other inhabitants of the earth. He was an extraordinary person whose legacy I hope to have passed on to my children.


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