The old ways

The old ways

10; 9; 8; … 3; 2; 1 lift off. As a kid, I, along with many other children and adults, followed along with the Apollo space craft program. Our 2 or 3 astronauts riding a rocket ship into space, going bravely into the unknown with the knowledge that all the components for the Apollo series space capsules were made by the lowest bidder.

The TV would show a control room of what seemed like 50 men in white short sleeve shirts with pocket protectors sporting several pens, pencils and red markers staring at their computer screens or TV screens and reel to reel computers with less computing power than one of the first smart phones. And what makes this American accomplishment even more astounding is that the engineers of that space capsule used slide rules the design it. Every piece had to fit perfectly or our astronauts would be dead shortly after lift off. It was not like the engineers could take out their iPhone and ask SIRI to calculate the trajectory of the booster rocket after seperation. They had to do it with a slide rule. (Go ahead and ask google what a slide rule is)

The analog wrist watch is a marvel to observe. What is even more amazing is the engineering that went into making that watch. I am not taking about the quartz watch that uses a small piece of quartz crystalto maintain its timing, I am talkingabout the manually wound spring watches with many small gears and cogs and a prcisely made mainspring to maintain time so accurately that you might gain or loose a second every week. Think of the precision and skill needed to manufacture a Swiss timepiece like a Rolex or Tudor. Like the old TV commercial for Timex said “…it takes a liking and keeps on ticking”

As a sailor in the US Navy back in the early 1960’s, my father served on board a destroyer, the USS Robison DDG-12. He was among the deck crew and as such had to learn certain skills to maintain the ships effectiveness. One of those skills was of course knot tying and leather work. The deck crew had to not only know how to tie specific knots, but also untie the knots in a second or cut a line (rope) in a flash of an eye. So the members of the deck team had to have a knife that was always sharp. Not just sharp, but so sharp you could shave with that knife. Since you needed to keep that knife at the ready, a sheath that had a flap to retain the knife was useless because of the time it took to unfasten the snap was time needed to cut the rope, it could mean your life or the life of a fellow crewman. So the need for a reliable leather sheath that could retain the knife yet still be able for easy accesability is apparent. Each sailor had to cut, shape and sew his own sheath from a pattern that was based on the knife that sailor chose to buy. I aquired the leather sheath that my father made. After some rubbing and buffing with some saddle soap, the sheath still looks good, the stitching (which you cant see as it is what was known as a hidden stitch to protect the stitching from wear) is still tight and the knife still fits in that sheath after 60 years and firmly retains that knife when inverted and shook.

I am sad to say that we, as a society, have lost and continue to loose the skills and knowledge that made us who we are. Yet there are still pockets of people that know these skills like farmers, tradesman, sailors and …. our elderly. Think of the wealth of knowledge we loose every day. Our society has become dependant on computers and have lost the ability to provide for themselves.

I am, what some may say, is the oreo generation. The last of the ‘baby boomers’. The ones that still remember the old ways and know the new ways. Yes, it is true that I write this article on an iPad connected to the internet and shared around the world to those that might be interested, but I make my own pens, I write in cursive with a fountain pen that I made, I wear an analog watch made in Japan that winds itseld with the movement of my hands, I shave with a safety razor and just yesterday, I made my own leather sheath for my own knife patterned after my dads that he made so long ago. I tried to locate a copy of the book that my dad had in the Navy that taught the skills needed to tie knots, work with leather and canvas only to find it is no longer available, not even the vintage books. Once these skills are gone, it is unlikely to be used or discovered again, yet these very skills and abilities are what made us what we are. Now, our leather work is done by slave labor in a Chinese work camp, bought by us in America because we can’t do it ourselves. We had better learn to provide for ourselves before it is too late and our sources of knowledge are gone. Just like in the book ‘The Time Machine’ when our victorian time traveler traveled far into his/our future only to find that the eloi, the child like surface dwellers who had life so easy, they had neglected their education. Their books of knowledge had turned to dust and they, the eloi had become the sheep for the morlocks who devoured them. Todays American society are fast becoming the eloi and the morlocks are everywhere. Those that do not study history….


We were already engaged to be married when she became pregnant. Nobody knew that she was several months pregnant when she walked down the isle in that beautiful dress to say the words “I do”. And it was that moment that we started our partnership. How naive I was, and immature. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face to get your attention, and just a few short months after we both said “I do”, she was in the hospital prematurely giving birth to our daughter. She was born under two pounds, and at the time, the hospital had a policy of not trying to save any child born less than two pounds. She was just a few ounces shy of that two pound marker. I got to hold my daughter in my arms and for just a moment, our eyes locked and I was overcome with grief, not for me but for her. She lived just a few short hours and I am secure in the knowledge that I will see her again, in heaven on a playground that God made for children, forever young and innocent. I see her in my minds eye in a yellow dress and I know that, when my lifeclock stops and I am in heaven, I will be brought to that playground and she will know me.

But even after having to goto the funeral home and make the preperations for my daughter, I was still immature. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, not really one or the other but internally fighting to stay immature. On the outside, I looked the part and I was happy, but I know that my beautiful young wife was more mature than I.

The doctor told us that if we wanted to hame more children, we needed to follow some medical advice, and we did. And she became pregnant again. Nine months later, I had a son. Yet I was still immature. I was angry that I now had to share my wifes attention, not at my son, but at the realization that I was unprepared for reality. Then, maternaty leave was over and my wife had to go back to work. She worked the “graveyard” shift. That meant she left home at around 10:00 pm and returned home shortly after 7:00 am. So after she left for work, I was responsible for baby duty. It was a few days after my wife returned to work, and it was late, or was it really early, I wasn’t fully awake to remember, but he was choking on something. I panicked and reached my finger in to scoop out what he was chocking on. I was awake then. As I held him to make sure he was alright, I was swept away. Like standing on a beach as a wave crashes over you and the undertow grabs your ankles and pulls you under. I was swirling under, fighting to come up for air. All of my memories of the time spent with my father was slapping me, tugging at me, trying to bring me to the realization that I was no longer a child. I loved my dad, I hated my dad, I reveared and feared my dad. I was awash in memories and the stark realization that he, at one point, realized he was responsible for me. As I broke the surface of those memories and had to swim to shore, as I stepped out of the ocean of memories onto the shore, I became a dad. It seemed to take an hour, but in reality, it was just a short moment. But in that moment, I was no longer a child, I was a dad.

I now have two sons. Both of them have found wives and have created families and lives of there own. My sons have loved my, hated me, reveared and feared me. I am blessed as my dad is still kicking. He has 4 great grand children. My sons are a great source of pride to me as they are good husbands and great dads. Their children love their fathers and will grow to love, hate, revear and fear their fathers and my fathers legacy lives in them, but I will always remember the moment that reality grabbed me by the ankles, pulled me under an ocean of memories and slapped me awake. I went in as an immature “pre-man” and emerged a dad.

Thank you dad for not a puddle or tub of memories, but an ocean, enough to bring me to dadhood.