Sep 16th, 2021 by Ice Cream Jonsey

My father’s memorial was this past weekend.

One of the earliest memories I have of my father was when he packed the family into the car to visit a dealership on a Sunday. On Sunday the regular salesmen were not there, so he was able to freely look at the new automobiles in peace.

An extremely large guy named Stu lumbered over while Dad was driving us around the lot. “Hey there,” said the big fella, “I’m Stu, I’m from the dealership down the street.” He spoke with my dad for a few minutes about cars, which my father could do with anyone. It was a little unethical to walk a competitor’s lot on a day off.

“Well, here’s my card,” said Stu, eventually, all jolly at maybe poaching a sale. “Come on down to our lot next week.” My dad took the card.

“Stu,” my father said, repeating the guy’s name.

“That’s right,” Stu said, “Just come on in and ask for Stu!”

Dad then he turned to the back seats where my brother and I sat. He was grinning. “BEEF STU!!” he said to us. And then he did a thing he did many times, he cackled like a man possessed.

* * *

My father married the prettiest girl in town, my mom, in Portville, New York. They were married in 1965. We never knew how he managed to swing that, as he had a nose like a troll straight out of the Monster Manual. He wasn’t always like that, he told us that when he was young he was at a bar and was leaving and someone just shut the door in his face and broke it. Many years later, like when we were in our forties, he told us that he was actually in a bar fight. My brother almost developed the same nose – when he was probably 12 years old, he was trying to catch a football in the backyard. My brother was focused on the pass and it went into his hands and then – BAM! – he busted his own nose on the above-ground swimming pool that was our next door neighbor’s.

My dad waited a few days and then asked Mike a question he would ask people many times.

“Hey Mikey, does your face hurt?”

Mike said no, it didn’t.

“Well it’s KILLING ME!”

* * *

As much as he liked cars he disliked bad management. He worked 25 years for Kodak before he went into business for himself selling cars. One year, rather than give people interesting work or raises or more time off, Kodak was trying to demonstrate some ill-conceived fake concern from upper management about how all the blue collar workers would be more efficient if they knew more about each other. I guess in the 1980s the hucksters could extract money for their snake oil solutions that way.

So Dad and everyone else he worked with was in a conference room when the consultants, trying to illustrate their point said, “Even though every one of you drive on the same roads to come in here, none of you know what any of the rest of you even drive to work!” At that point my dad raised his hand.

“I do!” And he went around the room, pointing to every person there. “1982 Chrysler Cordoba! 1981 Toyota Tercel! 1983 Volkswagon Rabbit!” He did this for every person there. He had no patience for phonies and even less for dumb bureaucracy. He never easy to manage and he actually reported to my brother for the last ten years of his working life and I have to give him credit for creating the one manager at work that could handle him.

* * *

I saw my dad break down twice. The first was when he had to put our first dog, an Irish setter named Ginger down. The second was when my mom got sick about three years ago. He loved my mom so much, his big goofy face would light up every time she called when we were out. A few years after Ginger died he did get us a puppy, a cocker spaniel named Corky. We got him one summer after he asked us to help clear the tangled mess of land out back from our home. He woke us up a couple weeks into summer vacation from school and told us that we had to dig up weeds and haul away all the overgrown vegetation.

“You two won’t have to do it by yourself,” he said.

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad then. But what did he mean by that? Would we have help?

“You’ll have some help from our south of the border friend, Manual Labor!” And then that cackle again.

* * *

He died with us holding his hand. My beautiful wife, in what was just pure coincidence, bought me a ticket home the weekend he died. He was surrounded by his family.

My father bought us a computer for Christmas, it changed my life. I work on a computer every day of my life, I knew I wanted to be a programmer when I was 12 years old. He brought home a modem which I used to get on-line, where I met some of my best friends to this day, where I am typing this now. He figured out a loophole to get me into Syracuse and after college my friends had all moved to Colorado where I joined them, started my career and met my wife.

I’m an engineering manager and in this field, nobody exactly gives you a manual on how to do your job. You start working there before other people in your group and just sort of get to manage the ones hired later. If I am good at it at all, the only thing I have over anyone else in my position is that I got a first class education in the bad management my father observed for 20 years. I know what not to do. He went to work every day doing things he couldn’t have enjoyed to help my brother and I grow up and achieve everything we’ve accomplished. Everything I have in life I owe to my mom and dad. I miss him every day and every day that I wake up I remember again that he’s gone.

My dad had something he always said about the future, something that always brought a smile to us. It was his best philosophic observation. “I can’t wait for tomorrow,” he would say, “because I get better-looking every day.”

Bob Sherwin
My dad

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