Today is Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. I don't have an ofrenda or altar to honor my loved ones who have passed, but what I can do is write a little bit about my Dad.
He was born in Schenectady, New York in 1912. When asked how to spell "Schenectady", he would reply "A-L-B-A-N-Y."
The consuming passion of my father's life was the newspaper business. Like me, he loved writing from an early age, writing "Boyd Stories" (his first name was Boyd) for his high school newspaper. In time, he got a job as a reporter for the Detroit News. Not much happened for him until he was sent on what appeared to be a fool's errand to cover some labor problems at a Flint, Michigan auto assembly plant. The workers locked themselves inside the factory and staged a sit-down strike and there was my father right there with them, getting the scoop. It was his big break.
One thing about being the child of a newspaperman so passionate about his work was that dinner table conversation was an insider's view of the events of the day. He also had a love for detective work, and he would investigate such things as a man who claimed to be the missing Lindbergh baby. My father could spin a tale, and it was fun to listen to! I've found that most people who love what they do are fun to listen to, when they discuss it.
By the time I was a teenager, my father had risen to become city editor of The News. He had started the Secret Witness Program and been featured in magazines and even been on "To Tell The Truth" (as himself)and "David Frost." His career success is what people seem to focus on most when remembering him. But none of that is why I loved him.
What I remember is when I would be ill, and he would stop off at the drug store on his way home, not for medicine, but for a comic book for me. (I loved them! I even still have some of them. "Clyde Crashcup" is my favorite.) He took time to read with me every night, and between that and growing up in a house filled with his books, I learned to love the written word.
He had an old Royal typewriter which he kept on his desk--the very same desk I am sitting at as I write this--and he would bang away like mad on the poor keys. He hated letters that hadn't struck properly! He typed with two fingers and thumb of each hand, and so do I. I also hit the keys too hard, but not as much as he did. Poor keys!
One of my favorite memories from when I was very little, is of being held on his lap sitting at this desk (again!) and being presented with my first-ever chocolate milkshake. Well, if you know me, you know how I am about chocolate! He also took me to my first Detroit Tigers baseball game, took me to stand on the gallery and see the big presses at The News running, and took me on so many of his beloved nature walks when we would rent a cottage some place in the summer time.
My father wasn't perfect. He was 43 when I was born, and by the time I was about ten, my relaxed and beloved Dad had become driven and difficult. The very job success he is so often remembered for was the thing that took him away from me, in many ways.
Regardless of that, he gave me so much. He loved slapstick comedy and passed that love on to me. This past week, I was watching a dvd called "Slapstick Masters" and just rolling at the antics of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Monty Banks and Laurel & Hardy. I felt him there, as I always do, watching and laughing with me.
I have written this in "courier" font, just like he had on his old Royal typewriter, where I wrote my first little stories as a child, with him always as the hero.
I love you, Daddy. You were always Superman to me.