By Judy Berman
Flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder are comforting sounds to me. I sleep easily thru a storm, and I have my Dad to thank for that.
It’s one of many things he wrote about when he began writing to me after my Mom died.
His letters covered cautionary tales on my decision to become a teacher, insights about zoning in the Nevada desert and humorous asides. As I reread them, I recall a Greek diner owner once telling me, “No matter how old you get, you’ll still be your parents’ little girl.” So true.
So, electrical storms don’t faze me. Here’s why:
As a kid, when lightning crashed all around, Dad taught me to look at nature’s light show with the cool demeanor of a mathematician in a lab. I’d peer out over the couch into the night sky and gauge how far away it was.
All grown, many years later, I’m reading a book by Patricia Polacco to my grandchildren. The author explains how her grandmother figured the speed of sound. I quickly jot off a note to Dad for his opinion. Dad wrote back that Polacco’s grandmother was way off in her calculations in counting the time between sightings of lightning and the sounds of thunder.
“A rough figure is 1,000 feet per second. So 5 seconds would be a mile. That’s what we did when you were a kid,” he responded.
Whether we were buying a car or switching jobs, Dad was there to offer his advice or share his experiences.
On education, Dad’s view on our schools is echoed by many today. He didn’t think the schools paid enough to its school resource officers or to its teachers.
“The pay is not high enough to attract former metro cops. The same problem applies to teachers. The salaries offered will not allow teachers to buy decent housing,” Dad wrote.
“I’m afraid your world and that of your students are very far apart.”
How true. In this ever-changing world, that is the one constant. Nothing remains the same – except the low pay.
His take on the lighter side of life was a welcome diversion. Even when he was being corny, he was the master of delivery and timing. Mom would gently scold us: “Now, stop laughing. You’ll only encourage him.” Then, she’d turn her head away from us because she was laughing, too.
Once, I wrote Dad asking how the joke went about a worker stealing wheelbarrows. He, ever the skilled raconteur, spun out the following tale.
This “reminds me of a guy who was working at the atomic test site. These atomic blasts involve a good deal of earth-moving equipment before and after the shot.
“In the 1960s, some people did their own home-building, and the lot had to be cleared by a bulldozer. This guy decided to earn extra by clearing lots on the weekend. To do that, he needed a bulldozer.
“He decided to steal one from the test site. Since the test site is very remote, he managed to sneak a trailer in, load it, and haul it home. With so much equipment up there, they didn’t even miss it.
“Things were going beautifully until the hydraulic system failed. So he had another brilliant idea. He would sneak it back on the test site, let them repair it, and then steal it again.
“They caught him when he was bringing it back.”
And Dad had a postscript to my query: “Never precede a joke with an explanation.”
The mailbox no longer holds the appeal for me it once did. My Dad’s letters stopped in 2011, shortly before his passing.
To all Dads on Sunday, June 16th, whether by birth, step, adopted, mentor, Big Brother … Happy Father’s Day. Give yours an extra hug from me.
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Main photo: My Dad, Joseph H. Fiet III, in the Army during World War II
Photo: My Dad watching my brother, Hank, play chess