Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Great Guy I Happen to Know.

My Dad turned seventy-nine yesterday.

Hopefully, he won't mind my sharing that number, because hey, that slide rule is already out of its slip-cover! (that's an homage to old school computing technology, which he can appreciate).

He's had quite a stint on this planet. It seems like he's been around a long time, yet as the son of a man who wasn't yet thirty when I was born, I'm startled at how an innocent string of tomorrows and next weeks has transformed into decades and generations.

He was born in Aberdeen, Washington, on June 4, 1933. It was the height of the Great Depression, the onset of Hitler's tyranny in Europe and still five years before the debuts of Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

Shirley Temple was still, you know, Shirley Temple.

He graduated from Sumner High School in 1951 and enrolled at Central Washington College of Education where he met and quickly married my mom. About thirty seconds later, my brother arrived.

That's the two of them, just before my dad deployed to an Air Force radar site in Alaska which was so remote, the locals considered Wasilla an urban center of liberal elites.

These days, our government is capable of gathering enemy intelligence with any number of high tech methods, from spying with cool remote-controlled model airplanes to waterboarding, but back in the 1950s, things were slightly different.

With the Cold War at its apex and Soviet-American relations more precarious than Mitt Romney's negotiations with his dog prior to a Yosemite road trip, my dad's charge was to perform Paul Revere-like duties when and if the Russians decided to squat in American airspace and kick off World War III.

His and his colleagues' singular task was so very simple: scramble American interceptors and alert the mainland prior to being rendered into salty, pink vapor by a Soviet nuclear candygram.

Stressful? Maybe a little.

Obviously, he survived that hell hole and returned home to build his own personal Dream Team.

Check it out:

A quick quiz: which son in this image would later vote twice for George W. Bush and which one would pursue a career in the fashion industry?

I included this picture of me because my parents didn't take many of their third and final child. It could be because I looked a lot like my brother and what's the use of doubling the work?

It's okay, I'm not bitter that they even chose to photograph my brother next to a tire. What compelling composition.

That's me again:

Like I said, some Civil War-era horses got their pictures taken more frequently, so I'm going to overcompensate a smidge. By the way, I don't remember asking for a train wreck cake. I must have been obsessed with something I'd seen on the news.

And I'm not sure how this one got in here. It's an angst-riddled portrait of me during the grunge era.

Oh, hang on, I'm sorry. That's my sister around '75 or '76. She was obviously totally stoked for America's impending bicentennial.

I didn't include many pictures of my dad in this piece because he was in even fewer than I; you see, he took the pictures. Every birthday, every holiday, every sporting event:

What the hell? How did a tennis-playing Jimmy Osmond get next to our raspberry bush?

My dad's a survivor. He grabbed prostate cancer by the throat and threw it out of his life. He endured the pain and emptiness of losing our mom, his wife of forty-three years, without conceding his existence as well.

The man would give his life for me, but I'm really glad it didn't come to that, and instead he gave me that huge plasma screen TV after he upgraded.

Happy birthday, Lionel Haywood. You deserve it.


  1. What a tribute Lionel from one of your three very talented children! Happy Birthday!

  2. Happy Birthday Mr. Haywood :)