My dad, crawling with dogs.
My father passed away less than two hours ago. Seeing how horrible he looked these past few days, I have a strange sense of relief for him--even through the painful ache of tears pressing on my eyes as I try to keep it together long enough to tell family and help make arrangements.
Last week, when I was sitting in his hospital room, I decided to write down the things I loved most about him. Here they are... it's not even close to summarizing who my father was... but it is a start. I have to go now.
- Whenever he got excited about something, his bushy brows would arch up, his eyes would glisten and he’d wring his hands in delight.
- His laughter was ebullient and raucous.
- When he talked about flying, he could barely contain his passion. It would simmer just below the surface as he described the experience. On commercial flights, an unconscious grin would spread across his face on takeoff, and he always leaned into it with bright eyes.
- His hands, knuckly and dexterous, always moved with a mechanical precision when he was working on something.
- Methodical and precise, he did nothing without thorough process and analysis. I often wonder how I came from that, because I am as fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants as they come.
- He built HeathKits and other tech. I would sit with him on ‘doodad-duty’ separating all the little tiny resistors by colour and handing him each appropriate one as needed. The smell of solder always brings thoughts of Daddy to me.
- His affection was awkward and harumphy, but it was there nonetheless.
- He loved chess and technology; he liked to watch boring things like C-Span and Snooker—and he hated Fox News with a passion—saying it was drivel for the ignorant. He loved to fly; and missed it a lot. He would play the Microsoft Flight Simulator, and also played a simulated air tower control game. He spent hours on the HAM radio every weekend rattling away in Hungarian to his circle of friends all over the country—the transmissions interfering with phone and TV; infuriating everyone. He also loved Links LS golf.
- He played a number of brass instruments very badly—accompanied by howling dogs. His passion for music frustrated him; because he never could play as beautifully as he wished he could.
- His whistle was amazing; a powerful trill, always perfectly on key, with vibrato.
- He ate apples as if they were ambrosia of the gods. He devoured every bit of it, except the stem. The seeds, he would set aside as he ate, and when the apple was gone, he’d carefully strip the seeds of their papery shell, and nibble each seed with relish.
- He always protested about being served too much food—but his plate was always spotless in the end.
- He loved crunchy things—and he passed this onto us; making crunchy-nabbing a competitive sport in our household.
- A gift of pistachios would last forever… he’d winnow the ferreted stash down 5-6 nuts at a time.
- He was a notorious book thief. You could never leave a book anywhere, even if you were in the middle of reading it, because it would vanish, and you’d discover him three chapters in and unwilling to relinquish it until he was done.
- He loved British humour. Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Not The Nine-O’Clock’News; he also loved James Herriot books, and I, Claudius and other BBC dramas. We spent a lot of time watching BBC 1 and Open University on BBC2.
- He ate bread with just about everything, even fruit.
- His sweet tooth was one to be rivaled. He loved cake.
- He would eat in snippets, all day, roving and munching, crinkling plastic and eating off of dessert plates.
- He loved classical music, and hence we all do now.
- Loved BBC World Radio and NPR.
- Could hold a conversation in Morse code.
- Was an excellent driver.
- He shuffled in his slippers.
- He could beat the computer at chess.
- His eyes would well up when he heard the Hungarian Anthem.
- Was a tremendous skier. He was skiing on Mount Hood when he was 72. He had these super-long skis and his trademark orange boots… whenever he came to visit Oregon, they were duly packaged up and hauled along, because he could never come to Oregon without hitting the Mile.
- Wrote computer programs and applications well into his seventies. Was an avid computer geek, something he and I shared for years.
- Looked at the world through the eyes of an engineer. Meticulous problem solver.
- Extremely intelligent; almost to a fault.
- Always homesick for Hungary.
Istvan P. Peteranecz
March 8, 1930 – May 5, 2010
Goodbye Daddy. I miss you.