What can I say in a short post about a man who took his family to live all over the world at different times and for different reasons, wrote books on cities and human potential when he should have been earning a living, and who considered himself a failure even though a few people have told me his books changed their life? Well, for one, he died as he lived, taking risks in search of truth and beauty, and while not troubled about talking people into risking it with him, this last time he had done it alone.
Another observation comes to mind. Of all the people I have known in my life, he lived the leanest. Well, OK, he finally succumbed to the modern dense-pack of calories in convenience food and thus had a big belly at the end, but in all other ways he lived simply and frugally so as to live by his own rules. I remember him proudly showing me how threadbare his underwear was before he tossed it, and he hurt my sister’s feelings one holiday by telling her he really didn’t want the fancy new towels she had given him. In the last few years he lived on $800/month of social security income. He made it work by finding subsidized senior housing, and when he learned that he qualified for healthcare through the VA, he triumphantly told me he was financially sustainable for the first time in his life. Even haunted by depression, he was fearless and focused. Writing, reading, and travel were his passions; universities, cities, maps, and history of the English language were the topics he studied and collected data on endlessly. I have boxes of his maps, some marked with little dots and numbers presumably indicating a statistic for an institute of higher learning, but I will probably never know.
There are attributes of my father that I work hard to avoid, but one that I hope I can learn from is to identify and shed the non-essential in order to make room for the important. (Knowing how to pursue the important is yet another challenge… I envy those who know early in life and deep in their soul what they were meant to do. I seem to have wasted a lot of years trying out different paths and failing even as I thought I knew why I was trying them. Nothing to do but keep trying though.) Publishing Dad’s last book is important, I know, regardless of who reads it. Living lean enough to make room for the challenge I have in front of me. I can’t believe it’s been five years, Dad. I miss you.