Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Dad's Lab

I love the place I work.

Today I came into work sad about my Dad's death.

There in my office was a tree...
...a dogwood tree for me to plant in memory of my dad.

The lab techs loved my Dad.

He founded this laboratory 51 years ago. It was two rooms and a bunsen burner in the back of the hospital.

We still have people working here that he hired over 40 years ago.

He would go into the lab every weekend to kick the machines and talk to the girls...or kick the girls and talk to the machines
- I was never sure which.

I remember the first morgue.
It opened onto a public hallway with swinging bar doors.
One time he was doing an autopsy so gruesome he didn't want me to see it.
(At 16 I had already seen several).
He had me stand out in the hallway and take dictation as he worked in the morgue.
I think my imagination saw things worse than real life could ever have been.

He moved into "the new lab" about 35 years ago.
When I think of Dad I picture him in his wood panelled office with the piano-wood bookcases.

He would be at his microscope with an antique picture of his Mother, Helen Steussy, looking over his shoulder.

On the opposite wall were five oil pictures of his five children - beautiful Cally, solemn Nic, me, Ed looking silly and Chris looking angelic.
On his desk, his most prized photo - Miga, his dog.

Actually Miga was supposed to be my dog.
I remember going to get her at a farm near Greensburg.
She cried all the way home.
In the first unselfish act of my life I offered to take her back to the farm if she was miserable with us.

But by the next day she was wagging her tail and happy.
Smart dog, because she was well loved her whole life.
And she pretty much became Dad's dog.

She always knew when it was Wednesday because that was their day to go to the lake house.
She would greet him at the door and watch in anticipation as he filled the cooler with two steaks for the two of them.
One time she woke him up when a fire had started in the chimney.
Saved his life, he said.

When she died he had her cremated and kept the urn on his bookshelf.

Now Dad has died.
He, too, will be cremated.
His ashes will go to the family farm in New Glarus Wisconsin.

And we will plant an oak tree there - one that will cast a long shadow like my father.

And here in New Castle, close to my home, on my land, I will plant a dogwood tree... remember my Dad forever.
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