1/25 of a second in 1957
Updated: Apr 18
It is sobering to think that I am now 2 years older than my dad was when he died. Here he is in 1957, when he hoisted a 3 year old me up to the fender of his portly Chevy tuna boat and stood for a moment in everyman’s time machine, the family snapshot, whereby 1/25 of a second 66 years ago, became potentially eternal.
This very recent miracle of silver nitrate could barely be imagined for the first 11,800 years of humanity’s more or less civilized history. My father has an objective image, safe from the vagaries of foggy recollections. The Indians called it “spirit capture” and I think there’s something in that.
Dad was a WW2 volunteer and a veteran of Pearl Harbor. He lived past 100 ordeals in the battle for Guadalcanal. When he came home in 1945 he was a wreck with 80% disability, battle fatigue, malaria , jungle rot, the job lot.
He had some fun for awhile after that, hunting, fishing, drinking and girl chasing until he married in 1951. He got serious, and had two kids. I was the baby.
He was a hell of a good dad, big hearted, hard working, activities oriented.
He had a knack for real estate, bought and sold, and landed a 4 acre horse ranch in Escondido, back when Escondido was one of the semi-rural, all American dream towns that Dinah Shore warbled about in 1951. But poor old dad his his vices. He lost everything to gambling debts in 1964, went bankrupt, and landed in jail, twice. He was a bit player in two, wildly unsuccessful, horserace fixing scams.
One of the greatest tributes one can pay to any man's memory is to say ”he learned from his mistakes and tried, heroically, to make things right”
That he did.
He took a job as a contractor, made some money, bought and sold houses again, and bailed my sister and I out of a dozen bad scrapes. He quit drinking and found Jesus, (two things I’ll never do), and died of a stroke behind the wheel of his pickup truck.
He was 66, contemplating retirement.
So, there you have it, my ruthless compression of dad’s 66 year tenure on this earth. It's very sporadically illustrated by a few dozen B/W photographs that were saved by divine intervention, considering all the hard roads our family travelled between his two short hitches in the poky.
The Zen Buddhists compare a life to a wave on the ocean. It rises up from the eternal water, makes some noise, looks pretty impressive for awhile, then batters itself against the rocks and vanishes back into the ocean from whence it came. Its existence apart from that of the great water is an illusion.
I love all that, it is both poetry and philosophy, and I can’t disprove it rationally, but I'm not all that certain about it.
I'd say that each individual is a center of consciousness and a place where reality converges. It is understood and acted upon entirely by consciousness thought. Reality exists, meaningfully, only by that singular conscious perception. When someone dies a unique chunk of conscious perception dies with that person, and is, far as anybody knows, gone forever.
As the ancient Greeks observed, the gods do not define man, man defines the gods. Some great wave of reality does not define us, we define the great wave, along with all the currents that drive us here and there and, ultimately, into the rocks.
And that brings me back to the photograph, dad in 1/25 of a second, 1957, the confidant young father, defining a moment in his sunny, post-war world, big car, new kid, nice piece of property in Southern California, before urban sprawl and gridlock. It is only a tiny sliver, a trillionth, of all he was, for good or for ill, and yet just that micro-snippet is a priceless thing.
And dad was no illusion. JDA
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