My dad's life was filled with missed opportunities, sacrifice and bad timing. All his life he was burdened with a terrible allergy to money. I can say that every year I get older, my dad gets smarter.
My father was kicked out of public high school and was put in Catholic Prepatory school in Tacoma. I recall him telling me he was one of only a handful of non-catholics in the school. He began to accel academically and took interest in the ROTC program at the school. During high school he learned to weld and enjoyed it though he never saw himself cut out for blue-collar work. He was gifted in math and science and enrolled in the University of Washington taking pre-med. While in school he began taking flight lessons. This in a nutshell was my dad...a man with scattered interests.
World War II came and all flight hours for civillian use were cancelled so he was not able to finish getting his pilot's license. My dad was then drafted while in school. He hadn't taken enough credits yet to get out of being in the Army though he got out anyway because he had what was considered to be an important civillian skill...welding.
On an interesting side story my dad belonged to a community theater and was the leader of a popular big band jazz group that played with alot of great musicians. He later took me to see Count Basie, Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton and others eventually meeting musicians my dad played with. My dad was a particularly talented drummer.
So he missed out on studying to be a doctor and never got his pilot's license. Because of the war he began welding in the shipyards and then finally for Hanford where fuel for the first atomic bomb was being created.
After that he worked in radio as an on-air personality in several small stations until he was hired at AM1090 in Seattle. He was finally doing something he enjoyed for a relatively popular radio station in a large media market. A dispute with a manager eventually led to my dad telling him to 'stick it' and he quit. At this point in his life he went to Alaska and worked.
The next years are a mystery to me personally. My two half-sisters were born and he went through two marriages. I know nothing of this time except to know that he said he owned two houses and lived in neither. My dad worked hard but would always shun prosperity.
Eventually he took his driving experience from Alaska and began driving a transit bus in Seattle. This is where he eventually met my mom. They were married 47 years.
They eventually moved to a rural area and bought 10 acres that had a shack on it. This shack and electrical wiring from the 1920's and no indoor plumbing. This is the house in which I grew up. We lived on that property until I was 18.
My father never retired. He worked at his job in Seattle until he was 76. He had a new boss that he had a hard time working with. One day when he was tired of putting up with his manager's bullshit he told her so...then just quit. He was battling cancer as it was and was growing more and more tired. One day it just became clear what it was he was willing to put up with.
I don't want to overhype my dad. At times he was only a marginal father figure and my brother and sisters likely do not look at him the same way I do. My father and I were very similar in many ways so my understanding of him is something my siblings may probably never understand.
From my dad's life and wisdom I've learned some important lessons:
Living free is more important than having money.
You can tell your manager to stick it and walk away from any job if you're willing to live with what's next. (I've quit two jobs using that exact tactic)
Sometimes you can't do everything you want because other people depend on you.
Happy Birthday Dad.