Work hard - play hard. These are words my father spoke, but more importantly, the behavior he modeled. My earliest memories are of him sitting at our dining room table with his slide rule. He didn't mind if I interrupted him.
My dad always had a pen and pencil in his pocket. He loved to ask what I was learning in school. He would whip out the pencil and explain a detail about the subject. I thought he knew everything. I wondered how I could ever be a parent because I could never possibly know everything he knew.
He made up words and liked riddles. If a flarfull and a half costs a penny and half how much would one flarfull cost?
As a co-owner of Songbird Artistry, I too, work hard. Instead of a slide rule, I use a computer. Like my father, I still like to whip out a pen or pencil and sketch or make notes.
Our version of "The Tree of Life" is all about balance which makes playing hard and appreciating life important too. Dinner was a family event with the TV off. I did the same with my children as often as I could. We took vacations together and my love of the theatre came from him.
He grew up in Massachusetts and as a young teen, his school went on a field trip to MIT. He decided that was where he wanted to go to college so he applied. They sent him a letter thanking him and telling him to reapply when he was a little older. He did. He worked for a few years as an engineer and then realized he really didn't like being an engineer and so he moved into management.
He taught me that life does not always go as planned. Plan anyway, but be willing to adjust.
He cared about our planet. We recycled our newspaper long before it was collected at the curb. He saved the papers, bundled them, and took them somewhere. When I was 13, he was introduced to a man who invented a piece of equipment that was used to determine how much pollution a factory was emitting.
Who introduced him to the inventor? This is one of my favorite stories. Jim, a man he fired. Yes, a man he fired. Apparently, a man who worked for my father was caught stealing and so he was fired. But this was not Jim. Jim wasn't the thief but he was aware of the theft. Because he didn't report the theft, he was let go. My dad felt bad that he had to fire Jim and treated him with dignity. Jim went to work for the inventor and when they wanted to grow, he recommended my dad as a man. He felt my dad was fair and would be able to grow the business. My dad borrowed money to buy into the company which grew from a few people to a business with over 100 employees.
Today my father would have been 87. He passed away when I was 23.
My dad was born in Germany in 1932, half a year before Hitler was appointed Chancellor. My grandfather was arrested shortly after Kristallnacht and taken to Dachau concentration camp. My family was very fortunate. They were able to get my grandfather released, and the immediate family was able to first go to England, then a year later come to America. Click here if you'd like to read or listen to an interview I recorded of my Grandfather's account of this experience.
Helmut Jakob Maier's story is also the story of an immigrant.
I chose this date to write this blog today because in addition to my dad's birthday it is also is Memorial Day. His family was fortunate to be allowed into the country. So many were kept out and were murdered as a result. He was a proud America who paid for college by getting a scholarship and taking out loans. He also joined the Army and benefited from the GI bill.
2nd Lieutenant Helmut Jakob Maier was a member of the 2D Chemical Weapon Battalion.
My father was not a materialistic man. I have very few "things" that were his. He saved these photos. On the back are the typed words "Official photograph Dugway proving ground" and written words, "Honor Guard".
My dad loved food. My mom did most of the cooking, but everyone once in a while he would cook too. Did he first learn to cook in the Army? I chuckle when I read this Christmas menu overseen by Mess Officer, Helmut J. Maier:
I have my father's blue eyes and when I was young they called me little Jack.
My dad had a dry sense of humor.
The best way I can end this blog is by sharing with you this final paper that he saved.
You should know I was 15.
I'll let you imagine what it was like raising 15 year old me.