A year ago today my Father died: February 24, 2011.
It is somewhat fitting that I will be spending the 24th in New York City – my Father’s home town, where he was born, raised, and spent much of his 20s before moving to Denver.
For those of you who know New York City, he grew up in Sunnyside – a neighborhood in Queens – along the number 7. For high school he made the trek to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan.
But I only know these aspects of his life from the stories that he (and his parents) told me.
I know my Father as a math professor – he’d moved west for medical reasons, landing a job with an insurance company, bought a house in an ethnically diverse (and integrated), politically liberal, neighborhood.
The story gets fuzzy in my head, but as I understand it, he didn’t like the insurance business and so he jumped ship and joined the faculty of the (then) brand new Red Rocks Community College as a math instructor/professor.
I have many memories that involve Red Rocks Community College – it’s out on the western edge of Denver – a long commute from home on the east side of Denver, but relatively easy as it involved a straight shot down the interstate and the sun was to his back, both going to and from work. (I might note that I abhor that kind of commute – I adore the fact that I can take a bus to and from work and leave the driving to somebody else.)
During my recent jaunt to Denver, I popped over to see Red Rock Community College – and it is much as I remember it – it’s set way back from a highway. There’s going to be a light-rail stop for the RRCC – but when it opens, the station is going to be a long, bleak, if not impossible, walk from the facilities – I suspect students who take the light rail out to the place are going to have to connect to a bus to actually get to the campus – even though the stop is going to be named for RRCC.
I didn’t go in – it was a Sunday after all – but as I drove into the parking lot, I had flashbacks of riding with my father in his Toyota Corolla – and, since he was an early morning person, which was his parking spot.
As I paused, I wondered if I could find where his offices used to be – how much the interior had changed. I remember asking him what those weird things hanging from the ceiling were – he explained that they were there to catch sound and prevent the concrete hallways from echoing with conversations and people walking, but, he added quite seriously, that he didn’t think that they worked because he thought that they were full of sound already – the janitors never took them down to let out the sound that was caught.
It’s funny – the story makes sense in my head, but I’m not sure that I can actually capture and explain it in a way that makes sense to other people.
After leaving RRCC, I drove down a road – the road I vaguely remember going with him – and ended up finding Front Room Pizza. I didn’t eat there (it was too early for lunch), but it brought back memories: at least when he brought me to work, it was one of the places he frequently took me for lunch.
There were other memories out there, and other things I wanted to take photos of, but since it there was a lot of snow on the ground, I headed back home. The next time I visit Denver, I will try to come when it’s warm out so that I can visit these places.
As I think about the great gifts that my father gave me, perhaps the greatest gifts of all were fond memories – a magical childhood where everything was possible. He cared enough to spend time with me, to indulge me, and to create these moments that even today I reflect back upon.