Today my Dad turns 80. I’m lucky to have had him as my Dad for nearly 42 of those years. Here are just a handful of the good times we’ve had together:
Long Drives to and from Gymnastics Practice
Somehow at around age ten, I became good enough at gymnastics to join an advanced class at the YMCA taught by two Russian coaches. That meant driving 30 minutes across town for practices every weekday and to various gyms around town for meets on weekends. Many of these drives were with my Dad. Drives with my Dad usually mean the radio is on and blasting either talk or classical music. You learn a lot watching your Dad conduct an orchestra while he drives down the 5 Freeway. You learn even more watching him argue with some guy on the radio about gun control.
Sometimes after practice, my Dad would buy me a soda from this magical vending machine. When you put 50 cents into this machine it didn’t just spit out a can of soda, it actually mixed the soda right in front of you! I remember watching as the machine shot precise streams of syrup, carbonated water, and ice into a red and white plastic Coca-cola cup. For some reason, apple was a flavor choice. Man, those apple sodas were good!
Playing Basketball in the Driveway
My Dad loved to wow me and my friends with his left-handed shot (he’s right-handed). I think at some point he injured his right arm and taught himself how to shoot with his off-hand. After a while, he was hoisting up southpaw three-pointers like they were nothing, often resulting in the final ‘E’ for me in a game of Horse.
Coaching My Rec League Basketball Teams
As much as it embarrassed me having my Dad as a coach, I grew to admire his craft. I remember one kid on our team who felt bad because he didn’t know how to play. My Dad took him aside and showed him a simple way to box out other guys for rebounds. This kid was excited to finally be able to make a meaningful contribution to our team. My dad made a huge difference in his life.
Later as my playing days came to a close, I joined my Dad as an assistant coach. It was fun formulating game plans and debating which of our guards was a better defender.
Ultimately, I would go on to coach a team on my own.
Hiking Up Mission Peak
We packed a lunch consisting of two apples and two turkey sandwiches topped with cucumber and sprouts on rye bread. If we went during the early spring, water flowed through the creek that sliced through rolling hills of green grass. If we went during the summer, the creek was dry and the grass was brown – not quite as thrilling.
One time we heard what I thought sounded like a 10-speed bicycle wheel spinning. My Dad was sure it was a rattlesnake. I took his word for it and we proceeded with caution.
Another time my friend Tony joined us. After we reached the top of the peak, I dared Tony to run as fast as he could back down the steep trail. He took me up on the challenge holding his own for the first 50 feet. Pretty soon he lost control and, as my Dad and I watched helplessly from the top, he cartwheeled the rest of the way down. Miraculously, he walked away with only a couple of scrapes. Tony was pretty quiet the rest of the way home. I think he blamed my Dad and me for his near-death experience.
Offering to Debate My High School Economics Teacher
My dad was concerned my class was getting too much Keynesian theory and not enough Austrian. He thought he could provide more Austrian. The debate never happened. I must have talked him out of it somehow. Kids tend to feel peak parental embarrassment in high school. But, I do remember this near-disaster as one of many times he taught me to question authority.
Every so often our family would escape the San Fernando Valley heat and head to the beach. Oxnard was one of my Dad’s favorites. He liked the sand dunes. We’d play catch and fly kites near the dunes. As a future software engineer, I loved constructing tunnels and roads in the sand for my cars and golf balls to enjoy. While I was busy in imagination-land my Dad would either go for a jog on the beach or read a book. Fun times!
My Dad is constantly reading books and learning something new. He has a passion for teaching and motivating others. He enjoys spending time with people, exchanging ideas, and debating all who are up to the challenge. He loves to exercise – training for marathons in his younger days, then lifting weights and cranking away on the elliptical machine in more recent years. Most of all, my Dad isn’t shy about doing the right thing even if someone tells him not to.
Happy Birthday, Dad! Here’s to many more years of lifting, learning, teaching, debating, and challenging the man!