Today would be my father’s 71st birthday. It has just been under a year since his death.
You can read the eulogy I gave at his memorial here.
At the age of 36 going on 37, I have lived more than half his lifetime. Despite the 34 years separating his birth and mine, I find more in common with our lives than I would have thought.
My father was born at the end of World War II. His parents were mindful of the recent Great Depression and were protective of their families and focused on ensuring their prosperity…or at least their survival.
My financially successful grandfather who lived in the Hollywood Hills was known for buying cases of things like glass cleaner at the dollar store, stockpiling such supplies in perpetuity in case……….in case…..well…let’s just consider it a hangover of the Depression.
My father, who I called PSK, lost two elder siblings early in his own life. One drown (as I almost did in Hawaii) before the age of five. One died of drug overdose much later in life. The impact of these deaths shaped the future of my entire family.
Today, it’s a fight against the “terrorists.” We have ISIL which spans a religion and multiple racial groups and enables absolutism or compassion and acceptance in near homeostatic amounts.
I remember during my youth people referring often to Japanese as “Japs,” homosexuals as “fags” or “ferries”, a certain type of nut contained within the standard Planter’s mix often found in homes was called a “N—– toe” casually and often without any apology.
Then, my father’s United States united against a defined and unquestioned adversary. Today, my United States is discordant, struggling under the weight of too many opinions as to the real nature of the adversary.
Children rode around unsecured by a seat belt, relying upon a parent’s arm rapidly whipped across your chest when a sudden stop occurred.
People smoked everywhere and without shame – in homes, cars, planes, trains, everywhere.
My sisters and I frequently snuck bottles of champagne from my parents’ parties and ate “champagne and peaches” upstairs from the noise.
Kids climbed trees far further than #ManInTree and with absolutely no supervision. Our signal to return home was someone yelling our names from the front of our houses, often ignored.
We answered the household phone “Krech residence” or if you were my sister Rachel (the only person who really got phone calls) it sounded something like “Hello? Yeah? HI!”
My father’s life was marked by changing values, modernization of industry, and changes in society and global relations no one would have thought possible.
My life has spanned a similar level of change.
I remember visiting my father’s office and seeing a “telegraph” machine, then intended to communicate critical information quickly among those who could pay. This was replaced by the FAX machine with its strange heat-sensitive rolls of paper.
This very office was decorated with huge posters of nearly naked women laying in fire advertising the tires and wheels my family’s company manufactured. The gym at this company had a “vibrating fat belt” like the one pictured here in the gym. My cousins and I used to play with it.
The year my father was born, NBC, CBS, and ABC were only one year in to a full prime time broadcast schedule (meaning they broadcast from basically 5P to 10p every night). A television in every home was still a long way away, and the notion that you’d see a “color picture” at any point in your home seemed like crazy time.
Today, we are inundated with media 24x7x365 and our expectations are that everything be both immediate and personal.
I’ve worked and been part of not only making sure each person has access to technology, but that they achieve their full potential through it.
The transformation required from my father and myself during our lifetimes was not only disruptive, it required adaptation we were ill prepared to take on.
My father’s life began at what was arguably the beginning of gender equality – women had only had voting rights for 20 years; African Americans lacked the same equality for another 15 years.
The same year my father got his license to drive, black people gained equal voting rights.
As I began to drive in late 1995, the topic of “LGBT rights” was a nascent conversation billowing out of the explosive AIDS crisis that began in the 80s.
Decades apart, we both gained our independence and ability to operate a car; at the same time we both saw equality take new shape and influence in the country and world around us.
We look back on Women’s Suffrage and African American voting rights as foregone conclusions. I hope my own rights remain as secure.
My father was the last person I ever came out to. I was worried that the things I’d heard him say reflected the limits of his love for me.
“I don’t get why these gays have to have a parade. They should go away.”
My adored grandmother often said similar things. I realize now how much we are a product of the world around us.
When I came out, he said, “I will always love you. Just try not to drink out of a straw. I try not to. I don’t think anyone looks right drinking out of a straw, but it probably won’t help a gay guy.”
To this day, it’s rare you’ll find me drinking out of a straw.
As his life drew to a close, the honest and authentic connection between us grew stronger. I could tell him anything, and through his limited words, he did the same.
We were father and son; our lives appeared very different and yet with perspective, I see how much we share.
My father is my kindred spirit. I realized this way too late in his life to actually capitalize on it.
I took yesterday and today off. As his birthday, one year mark since his death, and Easter (a holiday beloved by my father and Kathy) grew closer, I found myself sad, detached, and not that great to be around.
I’m trying my best to not forget my father…as more time passes, it gets harder to discern reality from fable, truth from story, memory from history.
My father’s last years were a time when he grew confidence and trust in his parenting skills, saw the truth of things and let go of his bias, owned his flaws but also realized how much strength his life experience had given me.
He opened himself up to faith and recognized that his death was not an end but perhaps the beginning.
I miss him so much.
I wish I could shorten the days I believed we were so different. I wish I could take back the days when I treated him badly for my parents divorce, me being gay, and any number of other things – even when he stood by me without fail.
I wish I could lengthen the latter years where we were honest and open with each other. I’d give up anything to have more time speaking openly with him.
I miss his smell. I miss his fucked up perpetually bent pinkies.
I miss him saying ganip-ganop. I miss when he would chase me around and try to catch me. I miss his persistent phone calls and his singing voicemails.
So much of what he was is the essence of who I am.
His values and morals have largely become mine. I think he lived a life aware of his shortcomings as do I. I think my father tried to outrun his flaws and in the interim deny they existed.
My hope is to live a life where I accept my flaws, overcome them, and help others do the same. His aspiration to achieve more and do better is a shared trait.
No one doubts how much we are the same: our quirks, flaws, idiosyncrasies, and perpetual flatulence make it clear we are father and son. So does our love of cracking people’s knuckles.
I wish I had the strength to be the best of him and the best of myself at the same time. I wish I didn’t have doubt he was proud of me.
I wish I had one more call available to ask him for help when I wasn’t seeing things clearly.
Then I remember he is here with me.
Happy birthday, PSK.