Memories of JJ, 9: The Beard

My dad with a beard

Hav­ing noticed the aus­pi­cious anniver­sary, I was think­ing a bit about Dad. I thought I’d told this sto­ry already, but I could­n’t find it in a search of my site. Maybe it was just in my eulogy.

For most of my life, Dad had a beard. If you dig out the real­ly old SRCI year­books, you can find pho­tos of him clean-shaven. I think he grew the beard in about 1980 or so, and he must have liked the way it looked because he kept it for a long, long time.

He told me once that his plan was to win the lot­tery, do all the nec­es­sary pub­lic­i­ty, cash the cheque, then shave his beard off and become invis­i­bly rich.

It was a sol­id plan, too. If you saw a pho­to of him pre-beard next to one of him with the beard, you might be hard-pressed to say the two pho­tos were the same per­son. JJ : Beard :: Super­man : glasses.

Then one year, when he was work­ing up in Lac Bro­chet, he and Mom came out of the north for the sum­mer and… he was clean-shaven.

The first thing I asked him, when I saw him, was, “Is there some­thing I should know?”

Posted in JJ.

Sabotage (Memories of JJ, #8)

Dad loved cop shows from the ’70s and ’80s. He was­n’t a big fan of ’80s and ’90s music, though. So imag­ine my sur­prise, one day, when, home for a week­end, I heard the dul­cet tones of the Beast­ie Boys com­ing from the TV that he was watch­ing. It was such an odd occur­rence, in fact, that it took me a moment to rec­og­nize what I was hearing.

Then it clicked: it was the break­down in “Sab­o­tage”.

I came out of my room just in time for the lyrics to start up again, and Dad, real­iz­ing he’d been tricked, switched the channel.

I get it, though. It sure does look like an ’80s cop show.

An evening out with the stars

Aurora Borealis

With some of the mon­ey I inher­it­ed from my dad, last year, I bought an 1116mm f/2.8 lens for my cam­era. In plain Eng­lish, it’s a nice fast lens with a nice wide field of view, which means that it’s great for astrophotography.

Tonight, the stars aligned for me, as it were. There was almost a 50/50 chance of some auro­ra sight­ings, per SpaceWeath­er. The tem­per­a­ture was a balmy ‑1°C, which was a pleas­ant change from the ‑25°C and ‑35°C nights we’ve had for the last cou­ple weeks.

Long sto­ry short, there was a faint haze to the north. Edit­ing with Gimp brings out quite a bit more than the naked eye could see.

As my cam­era clicked away, I leaned back against the car. At one point I thought of Kurt Von­negut’s quote: If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Pine boughs

On my way back to work after lunch, a City of Bran­don truck passed by on the street, car­ry­ing a load of fresh­ly-cut ever­green boughs. Just for a sec­ond I smelled sawn pine, faint­ly, and I felt a momen­tary touch of nos­tal­gia, because pine was the wood of choice for Dad, whether he was in the shed at home or teach­ing shop class. It was com­mon wood: soft, inex­pen­sive, and ubiquitous.

I grew up smelling cut pine.

Then it passed and all I could smell was win­ter in the city again.

Bike Around

Speak­ing as some­one who watched his father slide into demen­tia, this is very inter­est­ing.

To com­bat [mem­o­ry loss, researcher Anne-Chris­tine Hertz] built a pro­to­type called BikeAround, which pairs a sta­tion­ary bike with Google Street View to take demen­tia patients on a vir­tu­al ride down mem­o­ry lane. Patients input a street address of a place that means some­thing to them—a child­hood home[,] for instance—and then use the ped­als and han­dle­bars to “bike around” their old neighborhoods.

Meet the researcher using Google Street View to help demen­tia patients with mem­o­ry loss—via Google.

Let’s Talk

Hey. Just a warn­ing: This isn’t an easy read. It was­n’t easy to write, either.

Today is Jan­u­ary 25th, when Bell, inspired by a spir­it of bound­less com­pas­sion*, will give a pile of mon­ey to men­tal health ini­tia­tives, so long as you tag your dis­cus­sion cor­rect­ly. So… here’s my 5¢ worth, I guess.

As some of you know, my dad recent­ly died. He was in a nurs­ing home for years before he left us, a vic­tim of pret­ty severe demen­tia. So in a way, he died twice: once in the mind, slow­ly falling away over years, and then in body, lat­er, more quickly.

Even before the demen­tia became appar­ent, there were hints of depres­sion. Maybe things could have been dif­fer­ent if he’d spo­ken up, or if we’d asked the right ques­tions. (Let’s talk, Dad.) Hind­sight is, of course, always 20/20, but Dad just was­n’t the type to talk about these things. (Nei­ther am I, real­ly. Not usually.)

I’m like Dad in a lot of ways. I look like him, I sound like him, and many of his man­ner­isms and turns of phrase are deeply ingrained in me too. We both love sci­ence fic­tion. We both lack a spleen, thanks to a genet­ic con­di­tion whose name I nev­er learned.

But I’m also unlike him in a lot of ways. I do my best to go to the gym, which I think he might find a for­eign con­cept. I don’t like canned peas (grey salty sad­ness pel­lets), I enjoy kiwifruit and yogurt, I read the occa­sion­al fan­ta­sy novel.

Sometimes—not very often, but sometimes—I won­der if his fate is my fate. Peo­ple tell me that it’s not, and I do my best to listen.


* I imag­ine there are tax ben­e­fits, too.