Sunday 25 September 2011

i.m. Henry Ross Etter, 26 September 1940-13 March 2009

the hot pink cast

Twenty-five things about my father:

1. When the rehab facility broke his leg, he asked for--and got--a hot pink cast for it.

2. He loved cashews and Fannie May's dark chocolate vanilla buttercreams.

3. He gave me his father's poetry notebooks.

4. He was laid off from General Electric when I was 14. We spent 3 or 4 years under the poverty line, as he was considered overqualified for most positions and could only find occasional work, before GE rehired him through a temporary service agency, at half his previous salary.

5. He grew up in St. Louis. When driving, he often didn't fully stop at a stop sign; he called that a "St. Louis stop."

6. He used to enjoy CB radio and served as an emergency contact, listening on the emergency channel for a certain period once a week in case any calls came in (clearly in the days before mobile phones).

7. As someone from St. Louis, he loved the Cardinals. When he took me to my first Cardinals game, he warned me that baseball could be boring sometimes. The Cardinals won 7-4 against the Cincinnati Reds in extra innings, and later that year the Cardinals won the pennant.

8. He was always unsure about gifts and would ask my and my sisters' advice about presents for Mom.

9. He used to try to do as many car repairs as he could himself, and growing up, my sisters and I often heard him through the door linking the garage and kitchen as he cursed.

10. He picked up some sort of calisthenics program in the 60s and did it every morning Monday to Friday in the garage (until his injury, anyway).

11. He was noisy about his pain. He would literally call out, "OW! OW! OW!"

12. He held me, at three months old, in front of the TV to see the moon landing.

13. He made claims against Republicans without invoking any examples or evidence; one Christmas I gave him The Bush Haters' Handbook in the hope he'd use it for support.

14. He snored. Really loud.

15. He loved Bill Haley and the Comets and John Stewart. Those were the two sides of his music taste: rockabilly and folk rock.

16. He didn't drink much, and when he did, it was cheap stuff, either sweet wine from a box or Icehouse beer. He would, however, gladly partake if I was making amaretto sours or the like.

17. In one of our last conversations, he told me how proud he was of me. I interrupted to stop him, and he said something like, "No, no, now listen."

18. When he was delirious on morphine the last night of his life, I don't know whether he called out hari kari (least likely), Harry Caray, the name of the famous Cardinals broadcaster, or Hurry, Carrie.

19. The last signs of consciousness we saw in him were seemingly reactions to the rockabilly music on the satellite TV-radio channel--partial smiles &c.

20. I was always joked that, having five daughters, he related to us by introducing us to sci-fi, but I was the only one with whom it took. We went to a number of Star Trek movies together and commented on Next Generation and Voyager when we caught up on the phone.

21. He loved cycling and cycled 20+ miles a day for years before his injury in 2007. Sometimes, when I could be persuaded, we cycled out into the country together. He cycled so much that the local paper used photos of him for its "local moments"-type feature on three different occasions.

22. He would talk a stranger's ear off, whether the waiter, a gas station attendant, or someone he met when cycling on Constitution Trail.

23. Years after I finished my BA at UCLA, he said he'd wanted to send me to Harvard (had he the money).

24. He was obsessed with the weather, first following it on the radio, later on TV when The Weather Channel started, and later still on the internet. In his retirement, he spent a couple hours a day reading about the weather on the internet.

25. He told me he loved me at the end of every phone call.