When I miss my dad: well, all the time, of course, in a generalized way. But there are specific situations when I miss him more acutely: when I've just finished a trip from Maine to New York City and want to talk to someone about the merits of the Merritt; around Thanksgiving, which was when, in 1966, he met my mom in Seattle, that first meeting documented on eight-millimeter film by his dear friend Bill Dougall in such a way that I can see myself, in the form of twinkles in the eyes of both of my future parents; when I look at old photos of him like this one taken in 1946 when he was still on active duty in the U.S. Navy, his wonderful life ahead of him; when I recall how his signature brand of blasphemy could make a protestant minister happier than he had been directly prior to the blaspheming.
I missed him again this morning when I was reading the Daily Beast's round-up of videos of famous and/or infamous moments from past State of the Union addresses. If you've watched a few State of the Union speeches, you know that there's a certain amount of ritual and tradition involved, and that among the traditions is this: that the Speaker of the House sits behind the President and to his left, and that the Vice President, in his role of President of the Senate, sits behind him and to his right.
So, I'm looking at all of these videos, and recognizing then-V.P. George H.W. Bush and Speaker Tip O'Neill standing behind President Reagan as he speaks of the Soviet menace during his first SOTU address. And there are Al Gore and Newt Gingrich standing behind President Clinton in 1995 as he addresses the new reality of the Republican Revolution.
But then there's Kennedy, in 1963, his last State of the Union although nobody knew that, with Johnson to his right (our left) and... Hmm, and some super-old dude who must have been the Speaker of the House in 1963. I have no idea who this is.
Were it January of 2010, not January of 2011, I'd have picked up the phone and called my dad and asked him. He'd have been having his morning coffee and looking forward to his day (typical day: going swimming at the pool in Ellsworth later in the morning; stopping by the Consolidated School in the afternoon to check out the apple trees planted by grade-schoolers a few years ago as part of a program he'd gotten off the ground; Planning Board in the evening). I could ask my dad anything, and even though I'd have been forty-one years old at this time last year, I'd have asked him -- in a squeaky, prepubescent voice despite then being forty-one years old, or that's how I "remember" asking him this question which I never asked him -- "Hey, Dad, I'm lookin' at this video of Kennedy's last State of the Union, and there's this white-haired guy who was the Speaker then, in '63; who would thatta bin, Pop?"
Alright, I didn't call him Pop (although he would sometimes leave me phone messages saying, "Hey, Steve, it's your pop," and I miss those messages). But: squeaky, squeaky: no idea why I remember these conversations with my dad like this; I'm reasonably sure I asked such questions normal-style, in my normal baritone voice, without the Leave It to Beaver inflections. But in our lives (or mine, anyway), there are generally only a few people whom one can ask questions which might seem like stupid (or just irrelevant, or annoying) questions if asked of anyone else, and of course my dad was one of those people for me.
And my dad would have said, "Ohhhhh, sixty-threeeeeeee, well that would have been... suuuure, that would have been ______!... Now wait, would it? Yes, had to have been ____; he'd been ______ in the _____, and then he'd ____."
Question answered. Although I could have gotten the answer just as easily from Wikipedia, but these sorts of questions were an excuse to call my mom and dad (not that I needed an excuse really, because I was never at a loss for things to talk to my dad about, or questions to ask him, or he of me for that matter, such as how to make "the small... I don't know how to describe it: the small photograph of the printer on my desktop seems to have gone away" -- i.e., he couldn't make his computer print anymore).
But Wikipedia isn't the same! It's just not the same.
Btw, the super-old dude who was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 1963, by the way, Wikipedia sez, was John William McCormack -- ever heard of him? Of Massachusetts? I haven't; not sure if I should have. He was only seventy-two in 1963. I guess people looked older then.