Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Chip Off the Old Block

Last night as I slipped into that place in meditation where I often meet my parents, I found myself saying, "Daddy, I finally understand that summer of the Rohrman trial. I forgive you for our lost vacation. You were just dealing with a matter of principle that was very important to you."

My father was a scientist, a physicist who loved to invent things. Although most of his work as an enlisted man and then as a civilian with the US Navy was confidential, I know that he received multiple patents for inventions having to do with minesweeping.

This is my father (3rd from the left) talking to some of the boys at the U.S. Naval Mine Countermeasures Station in Panama City, FL.

Here he is (on the right) playing with his ham radio rig. He loved to send Morse code.

He never dealt well with the bureaucracy imposed on any government worker. He even refused to apply for a final promotion because he thought it would remove him even further from the technical things he loved.

One summer when I was around 10 years old, we had packed our bags in preparation for a 3-day trip north to Minnesota to see his family. I was always excited about the prospect of a road trip. But suddenly we found the trip to be on hold because of an issue at the naval base where he worked.

It seemed the scientific director, a Mr. Rohrman, was on trial, a trial that seemed rather like a court marshal. My father was testifying on his behalf and the controversy around this whole thing was extremely troubling to him. But he was intent on making the truth known as a matter of principle.

As a 10-year-old looking at my packed suitcase every passing day, I resented this Rohrman guy who was keeping us from going on our vacation. I failed to understand the significance of my father’s commitment to doing the right thing.

My recent work saga reminds me that I am my father’s daughter in terms of my concern for doing the right thing with our data, amid bureaucratic pressure to do things differently. I’m sure he could have identified with my discomfort at being in meetings where I was pushed against the wall and where I felt like I was out on a limb all by myself.

But finally, Daddy, I get it. I understand just how difficult it is to stand up for what you believe when you are swimming upstream. Thank you for your example.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute to both of you!

1:45 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I love the pictures almost as much as the story. Thanks for sharing!

3:54 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I can see of you in your father, inside and out. Nice connection to your present situation at work!

7:57 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

How healing! Wow. LOVE th pics!

8:51 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I never found that standing up for what I believe is difficult, but I do find it lonely (it can also be scary when you face an unreasoning crowd).

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We probably should have been sisters. It is very hard when the military father is involved with the intelligence side.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Thanks for all your comments. The best part about writing this post was looking at all those old photo albums and observing so many facets of my parents' lives that I never paid attention to before as a kid.

Richard -- Lonely is the best word to describe it.

OL -- I think we would have had fun being sisters. I'm sure I would not have been so naive in your company!

And yes, I did get tired of all the secrecy surrounding what my father did. I remember when he went off to Enowetok Atoll in the Pacific to test the atom bomb and swore me to secrecy when he told me where he was going. I went to school the next day and told my best friend Mary Jane and then got a terrible case of guilt for having divulged his secret.

10:05 PM  

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