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Thoughts and Anecdotes April 21, 2008

Posted by nukemhill in Family.

There will be many of these postings over the next days and weeks.  New remembrances keep popping up.  But first:

Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom posted a nice link to the Requiem.  He states:

I was unaware of this, but frequent commenter Nuke ‘m Hill has a post up about his dad, who died a couple of weeks ago.  He’s feeling the loss of consortium rather keenly, though our conversations with our fathers never really end, even if one has to play both sides of the chessboard. [bold mine]

Funny you should put it that way, Dan.  During the memorial service that my sister and I held for Dad, I said pretty much the same thing.  I noted how, over the years, I would always have conversations with Dad in my head, as he was always my moral compass.  I knew that, if I couldn’t win an argument with him, through fierce logic and passion, then I needed to reconsider my premises, because I was probably wrong.  Even though we strongly disagreed politically, I was deeply aware that he always came from a place of compassion and love for others.  If I couldn’t convince him (in my head or otherwise!) that I was right, then I needed to make sure that I was coming from the same place.

I could have worse role-models, to be sure.


Funny Story #1:  Dennis Clausen, a former colleague and very close friend of Dad’s, came up for the memorial service.  After Amie and I spoke, we asked others to contribute anything they’d like, to give us all a deeper sense of who Dad was for them.  Some rather amusing stories came to light, especially from Dennis.

One story he related was about the first commencement exercise they attended together as professors at USD (University of San Diego).  This was back in Spring of ’73, I believe.  Dad was hired in Fall of ’71, and Dennis was hired in ’72, if I’m remembering my history correctly.

Anyway.  The commencement at USD is usually right around Memorial Day Weekend, so the weather in San Diego is beginning to warm up about then.  The ceremony was being held at an old theatre in downtown San Diego.  No air-conditioning, no ventilation, nothing.  Yuck.  Dennis, being originally from Minnesota, was averse to high heat and humidity.  Frigid cold?  No problem.  High heat?  Fuggedaboutit.  As he’s walking down the aisle of the theatre with the rest of the professors, he’s regretting the situation more and more.  Sitting in that oppressive heat for 2 hours looks like a horrifying prospect.

By the time they get to the back of the stage, he’s starting to mildly panic.  At that point, he notices a door by the steps, and makes a break for it.  As the professors in front of him take a right turn, he goes straight through the door, and out the back of the theatre.

Just before the door closes, however, someone else walks through.  Who?  Dad, of course.  Dennis asks him what he’s doing, and Dad’s reply?  “You looked like you had a better plan.  Mind if I join you?”  And thus a friendship is borne.

After disrobing, they proceed to walk around downtown for a while, until they see a sign for a billiards hall.  As Dennis is relating this part of the story, I can almost see the light bulbs going off over both of their heads!  As Dennis put it:  “We proceeded to play the first of perhaps 10 million pool games in our time together over the years.”

They spend the next couple of hours playing pool, drinking beer, and generally enjoying the pleasures of modern air conditioning.  At the point the ceremonies are due to finish, they don their caps and gowns, head back to the theatre, walk in the door, and begin mingling with the crowd that had formed with the completion of graduation.  “Beautiful ceremony, don’t you think?”  “Yes, quite the stirring commencement speech.”  Nobody was ever the wiser.

Dad and Dennis were thick as thieves.  I think Dennis probably saved Dad’s life after he and Mom divorced.  Dad was a lost soul throughout most of his life, and the friendship he and Dennis shared was nothing short of miraculous.  Dennis noted that when Mom and Dad divorced, Mom got the kids, and he got Dad.  That’s probably closer to the truth than most people realize.

Dennis, you’re mensch in every sense of the word.  God bless you.



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