Flutterby™! : be good to yourself

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be good to yourself

2019-11-21 07:32:44.366301+00 by Dan Lyke 1 comments

I grew up, from 1st through 7th grades, in a place we called Willowbog. It was an old farmhouse, built in 1790. It was a grand 2 story 4 bedroom house on a dirt road mid-way between East Chatham and West Lebanon New York. As I remember it, when we moved in we had no running water and no electricity, though the young mind probably exaggerates. I think in second grade I was given an ax and asked to remove the lath and plaster on a wall. I learned sweating copper pipe, and wiring, and built tree forts with spare construction materials.

I also learned to solder, basic electronics (from breadbording 555 timers to soldering together a Heathkit oscilloscope), built a coaster go kart out of an old baby carriage left in one of the barns, helped raise goats and sheep and ducks, and when I entered my pyro phase, my dad showed me how to make igniters out of multi-strand wire, gave me a pair of goggles and a can of black powder, and told me to go nuts.

We skied at the Mount Greylock Ski Club, a nominal membership rate and time spent being lift attendants or keeping the big long rope tows running. We rode those with nutcracker like devices that dangled from belts; one hand to clench the rope, the other swung the open nutcracker up under the rope, deftly catching it and clamping on, pulling us up the slope.

One day skiing I decided that my goal for the morning was to not fall. At some point I excitedly reported my success to my Dad, and he observed that I must not have been pushing myself very hard. It wasn't a judgmental thing, but it's a great example of the spirit he imbued in me: always be failing, so I could improve.

This was the era of Pong and Breakout and Atari was becoming a thing, but if I wanted video games I needed to build then myself. My dad brought home a KIM-1 from work, 6 digit 7 segment LED display, a 20 key hexadecimal keypad, 1k of RAM. I learned to hand assemble machine code.

Music was expected, my mom tried to teach me piano, I was later unleashed on trumpet. My mom also insisted on chemistry and physiology: a formative moment involved finding something that conflicted with Waldorf philosophy in Gray's Anatomy, being shot down by my teacher, and gaining a lifelong distrust of formal education. But I did get a 98% on my chemistry final in high school. Probably my only high school grade of note; I was a bad student because school got in the way of learning.

So when, two or so years into college, I spent a semester rock climbing and my grades didn't change and I realized I was wasting my time (with the school, not the rock climbing), I had all the technical skills to drop into a career. And the physical skills to guide whitewater on the weekends.

I lacked some of the social skills; isolated communities aren't the place to develop those, but we do what we can.

A few years ago we decided to build a workshop in our back yard. My upbringing meant I thought it normal that I drew the plans, annoyance that I had to pay Professional Engineers to sign off on my calculations for the added weight of a living roof and energy use for Title 24 compliance. But the greatest gift was that my Dad came out to help me build it, and we spent a month and change from raising studs to mudding drywall.

And my Dad, this man with an engineering masters from Cornell and an MBA from Emory, who could swing a hammer and run a lathe and build drawers, expressed that he thought I'd outdone him.

In late July, he was diagnosed with, as he put it, "4 lumps in my skull, the smallest of which is my brain". He'd been out in April, to help crew our team in the Bodega Bay Wooden Boat Challenge, and slowed down a bit, but I kinda figured he had another decade or decade and a half of vibrance left in him.

I've been back three times to visit, and leaving this time was almost certainly the last time I'd get to say goodbye.

I'm sure I'll have regrets, things I wish I could have told him, laughs I'd like to share, but in the end it boiled down to three things: "I love you. Thank you, for every thing. Be good to yourself."

Since I never know when a conversation with someone is the last, it bears repeating, and to y'all, too:

I love you.

Thank you, for every thing.

Be good to yourself.

[ related topics: Nostalgia Children and growing up Interactive Drama Music Games Cool Science Invention and Design Work, productivity and environment California Culture Sports Pyrotechnics Boats Machinery Community Fabrication Education Douglas Adams Whitewater New York Video Philosophy Real Estate Model Building Woodworking ]

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#Comment Re: be good to yourself made: 2019-11-21 23:06:44.191857+00 by: DaveP

It’s tough losing a parent. My sympathies, Dan, and best to you and your family. I never met Andy in person, but we talked online a time or two, and he sounded like a heckuva guy. If a parent's primary job is raising good kids, he has to know he excelled at that.

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