This Saturday, April 30th, would have marked my father’s 71st birthday. How would we have celebrated? Same we are this year–with a thought. I can’t remember a time when we celebrated his birthday with lavish parties or gifts. It really wasn’t that important to him. I am sure we made cakes. Once we moved out, however, it came down to a card and a wish for a happy day.
We lost my father in 2007 to Pulmonary Fibrosis, a genetic marker that was most likely activated by his long and varied life. I don’t dream about him much anymore. When he first past, I dreamed about him constantly. But I think about him a lot, and thought that a post for the man who inspired my active life, as well as my love of learning, would be a good birthday present.
My father was, at one point or another, a roofer, worked for a boat building company, taught zoology (he had a PHD in it) at Rutgers, taught biology to nurses at community colleges, and farmed very seriously. Learning was important, and he dug into learning about farming and keeping records with a passion.
He believed in learning all one could about a subject, and loved books, and later, the internet. The TV was always on, tuned to the news once 24 hour a day channels came into being. He was a mix of thinker and physical prowess–a new age Renaissance man.
Before I really knew what running was, Daddy (he was always Daddy to me) was running races. I just remember going and, hopefully, finding a playground to occupy me during the boring race. He ran 10Ks, biked to work (as a roofer) and went from a part-time garden patch to a full-time farmer.
By the time I have real memories, Dad had stopped running and biking, but was physical all the same. When we moved to Maine, he was cutting wood for the wood stove, tapping maple syrup, growing veggies and building. And building. A fresh farm needed a lot.
He built our barn, which was no little feat as it was no little barn; as well as our chicken coop (later to become our grain and tack room). To build the barn, he found a decrepit barn in a nearby town to tear down in exchange for the wood. I have vague memories of helping, but I am sure my brother and he did the real work.
I have a so many “clips” of Daddy in my memory:
…we lived out in the country, so no cable for us; but in the early video era, our local NBC would play a half hour of music videos. Daddy thought Duran Duran was clever, and had great videos.
…he loved music. Classic rock would have him playing air guitar, but he spread his interests around, jazz and classical also finding their way into his collection.
…he was incredibly supportive. He would shake his head and tell you where you went wrong, all the while he was helping you fix it. And if a book could help, a book you would get from him.
…he gave left over eggs and veggies from the Farmer’s Market (we sold there every Tuesday and Friday) to the local food kitchen.
…he was a natural-born teacher. If you asked a question, make sure you had time for the answer as it would be in-depth–and there might be a quiz later. Many a person found this out at the Market after asking about how to grow something and getting a lecture.
…he grew 26 varieties of potatoes, earning him the name of “Rudd, the Spud Man.”He never met a potato, blue, red, or gold, that he didn’t like.
…if he ever failed at anything, I don’t know about it. Daddy was self-sufficient and willing to learn: he was a photographer with a dark room, he built a spacious two-story addition on to our house in Conn, he plumbed when necessary, worked on the wood stove’s chimney, kept the tractor running, and did about every general handyman need on the farm.