I’ve always believed that my father was the smartest person I’ve ever known. As a nuclear/electrical engineer, Dad designed equipment for the Apollo and space shuttle programs as well as safety equipment for nuclear plants. With multiple patents for various high-tech gadgetry, he was clearly well educated and very practical in matters of science. During a visit to the Titan Missile Museum outside of Tucson, the museum guide began to explain how a Titan worked. Dad patiently waited and then said, ‘that’s not exactly correct. I helped design the process you are explaining and it really goes like this…”. Within about 30 seconds, none of us understood what he was saying as he discussed ceramics and atomic this and nuclear that. To this day, I still don’t have a clue what he was telling us. I just know it was cool.
Many of you have been in a meeting where certain people want you to think of them as “the smartest person in the room”. Extremely humble, Dad would never have said it.
We just knew it.
This was not just because of his intelligence, but also because of his balance. Growing up, Dad was always there for us kids. When we moved across the country, we missed soccer sign-ups, but Dad offered to be a coach for a team that didn’t have a coach just so I could play. Neither of us had ever played soccer, but what the heck; we gave it a try. Later, when my sisters wanted to play, he agreed to help their team too.
He rarely missed our music or sporting events and was quick to provide guidance for science fair projects. No, he wouldn’t do the project for us, but he provided the guidance for developing a functional, mock hydro-electric plant or an experiment to determine if plants grew better in an electrical field.
If you didn’t know the background of John Senior (we called him that since my oldest son is also named John), you would never know that he had played sax for the Arthur Godfrey show or that he formed his own band in high-school or that he continued to play his sax and skied or swam into his 80s. You wouldn’t know that he ‘schooled’ a troop of boy-scouts while on a backpack trip in his 70s. He just did things because he wanted to do them. “No regrets” was a phrase that has always described how I viewed his life.
For many years, Mom and Dad lived part of the year in Truckee California. During the summers, I would meet Dad at the Donner Lake marina for a ‘training event’. I would run the 7-mile loop while Dad rode his bike alongside. While we rode/ran, we would talk about whatever came to mind; work, kids, politics, religion, or whatever. It really didn’t matter what the topics were or how fast we went. We simply had fun communing with nature and each other in an extraordinary part of the world. We stopped for deer, bald eagles, or the occasional bear, but otherwise it was just us.
Nearly two years ago, Dad passed away. He took with him an incredible volume of intellect and wisdom. If I have shared with you only a small portion of what Dad passed along to me and my family, we are all the better for it. He would be more proud of what we can learn from his example of doing than anything he did personally.
My challenge to myself (and hopefully to you) is to find the things in life that make us better. Seek out those things that challenge us to broaden our horizons.
Then help someone else reach for their horizons too.