Thursday, May 29, 2008

10 years

It was 10 years ago that my Dad died, too soon, of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has to be the cruelest of diseases. He was 76, vital, working, enjoying life, looking great and looking forward. Wham, bam. He was diagnosed in January and gone in May. It hardly seems possible that it has been 10 years, because he has been with me every day of those ten years. My hero and my inspiration.

The picture was taken on his friend, Phil's sailboat. He loved to sail with his friends, Phil and Dick. They are all gone now. I hope they are sailing together—somewhere.

Dad was a mechanical engineer. At the end of the war (WWII) he and his brother bought a machine shop in Pocatello, Idaho. They were both engineers and they had an engineering business and the machine shop where they built the machines they designed. They did work for all kinds of businesses. I remember Dad doing a lot of work for the Coca Cola bottler in Pocatello. But being where they were—Idaho—"famous potatos"—and when—the '50s and '60s when the processed food industry boomed—most of their work came from the potato processing companies. My Dad was the French fry guy. If you've eaten a french fry from McDonald's or Burger King, or bought them frozen in the supermarket, these were all made by machines designed by my Dad. He invented the crinkle-cut french fry machine. (more surface for extra crunch) He also designed machines for frozen hash browns and all kinds of frozen foods. One time a group I belong to asked us to bring an item that was significant to our family history for a program. I took a potato. I figured it was potatoes that sent me to college, straightened my teeth and provided the good life I knew as a child. Dad enjoyed the creative challenge of his work, but he never thought it was that much—not like the engineers at NASA, for example. Wouldn't he have loved being involved in the space program?

He must have had faults. Too much inside his head? A little absent-minded? Not a great cook? But who could fault his modesty? His soft-spoken humility. His love for his family. His love of knowledge and learning and reading. His sense of humor. The sweetest, best Dad ever.

Every year he called on my birthday and he always said the same thing. "I can't believe you are __ years old. You were the most beautiful baby I have ever seen." For the past 10 years I have only been able to imagine that phone call.

When he was dying, we flew to Salt Lake City, then rented a car and drove to Pocatello. I called on the way and my sister-in-law said, "hurry, he is fading fast." When we arrived he seemed to know we were there. I sat and held his hand as he left us. For months I was in a fog of grief. One evening I saw a white-haired man wearing a plaid shirt just like one of my Dad's, crossing the street as I drove home from work. I cried all the way home.


  1. That's a wonderful remembrance, Terry.

  2. I am so sorry about the loss of your dad, I cannot imagine loosing mine.. sounds like he was a great man, remember him fondly...

  3. Some people have argued the importance of having a strong, loving father figure in a woman's life. You are a perfect example of why it means so much. This was so touching and I loved reading every word. What a wonderful man he must have been to have turned out such a thoughtful, talented, loving, woman in you. Just beautiful Terry.

  4. I have tears in my eyes as I read about this fine man. The father-daughter relationship is such a special one and I hope your many happy memories are a comfort to you on a sad day.

    Though they are gone, they are with us always, I quite agree.

  5. I am sorry for your loss. Each person is like a world - and losing them makes the world smaller.

    I'm an oncology nurse. In my experience the dying patient does know that family members are present. I've also been taught that hearing is the last sense to go. So dying patients, I believe do hear their families until the end.

    He sounds like a wonderful man and father. I'm glad you had him in your life. I'm sure he's sailing with friends in the afterlife.

  6. You look like your Dad and I bet you have his personality. Pancreatic cancer is the cruelest because it sneaks up on you. I lost a great aunt, an aunt and two close neighbors and friends. I think it is the curse that I fear most.

    Thanks for sharing your memories.

  7. This picture of your dad brings a flood of memories. Perhaps it is their abiding and love and strength that keeps those who are gone so close.

    Yep, the potatoe was significant in the lives you and many of the rest of us from southern Idaho.

  8. Anonymous9:49 AM

    And when I have a problem, I still think, "If only Dad were here to draw a picture, I could figure this out." I will never forget how the toughest math problems would become crystal clear when he'd pull out that pad of graph paper and start sketching. I always thought he could solve any problem in the world with that pad of paper. And he probably could have!

  9. Anonymous11:19 AM

    As an engineer working for NASA, I can tell you that your dad had much to be proud of. He contributed a great deal to making a better life for all of us "potato eaters," and furthered the manufacturing and production capability of the US with his ingenuity. Being an engineer in the space program is frustrating and unfulfilling, and I'm sure that he didn't spend his life that way. You should be very proud of him.

  10. Anonymous12:38 PM

    Beautiful tribute, Terry. Sounds like both of you were very lucky.

  11. Anonymous3:45 PM

    Long time lurker here. What a beautiful post. It is also an interesting part of history. Who hasn't eaten a BK or McD's fry or bought the frozen ones?

    Terry, you and I are among the lucky ones. We both had positive male role models in our lives. My dad passed on June 15, 2006. Most days, I am fine. Then I will hear a piano piece and just fall apart. (My dad played the piano beautifully.) But he is worth the tears.

    Thanks for your blog. I check in everyday.

    Cynthia in Astoria

  12. The memories you have of your Dad will be with you forever. They are what make you who you are. Even though he is physically gone, he lives on as you continue to honor him as in this post.

  13. Thanks for you reminiscence about your dad. I read this posting today, the 1 yr anniversary of my own dad's passing. I was able to spend the last 2 weeks sitting with him in his hospital room after spending a rushed 10 plus hours driving to get there when he had a bad turn. I knew as I soon as I saw him he wouldn't be leaving. Being with him when he passed away, along with my sister and her family plus a cousin was once of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I've spent today thinking of him a lot. I miss him.

    Louise is SW Saskatchewan

  14. Anonymous10:03 PM

    When Jim died, my dad said, "All the good guys are gone."


  15. I loved reading this. And it was wonderful to see both photos of your dad AND the one of you. It is so easy to see that you are his daughter! I cherish my own memories of my father, who was a perfect father to me and who incidentally hung the moon, at least for me. We can't keep them with us forever, but we can keep them alive in our hearts. Thank you for this.