Pillar of Strength

November 1, 2010

 We are puttering down I-5 south…my husband serving as co-pilot to my 87 year old father who is once again headed south for the winter. He has done this since 1987; making the trek from impending snow storms to sun, cactus and elderly gals who light up when they see him pull in. Nice trade. This year we proposed riding along; for company, moral support, relief drivers.

As the daughter of this mighty man, I saw this trip as an opportunity to spend time with him, listen to stories… both new ones…like the time he spilled an entire tray of drinks down the back of Nelson Rockefeller…and old ones, like how he was a flight navigator during WW II and threw up at the thought of getting in a plane. I am aware that time with him like this, time with him period, is a gift, a treasure, a chance to know him just a little better…which I have craved all of my life.

We agreed that starting in southern Oregon and treking to Southern Calif.  we would stop and show my husband the homes we had lived in as a family, the schools I went to, the places I used to make out with my high school boyfriend. Can we say narcissist? We slowed down and looked at the building that used to be my dad’s architectural office; the one that sat on the edge of the community park. From his window he could see me and my friends lighting up our blackberry cigars, practicing kissing and trying to be as bad as kids could be in a small town with every one watching.

He retired 20 years ago, and still there is a connection to the place, the building, the years spent there creating architectural pieces of history that made him proud of his career and contributions. The west coast  is peppered with his brilliant concepts, attention to detail and cutting edge ideas.

The house we lived in together, just blocks from his office no longer sits at the top of a dead end street. It is surrounded by the ticky tacky of this decade…same house, different color. The house he so carefully painted a contemporary “putty” is now white with bright blue trim and a second story that seems to hover out of place, like it landed as a result of that tornado from Kansas…everybody so worried about Dorothy, no one really noticed.  Definitely an affront to a seasoned architect….to say nothing of the faux Grecian statue in the middle of the front yard.

As we headed  into northern California, he started to reminisce about a major project he had designed…the one that landed him in Who’s Who in America. He was the first architect to enclose an entire downtown area, with heating and air conditioning and they called it a MALL. Countless trips up and down I-5; too much time spent away from family, successes and failures until 5 years later the mall opened to an  exhuberant crowd.  It received awards and recognition that few men see in a lifetime. It WAS a very big deal. We pulled into town to have a look. He knew it well and at the same time felt like a first time visitor what with all the changes; the restaurant he frequented during the project, gone; the fire station that he had designed, now a mere shadow of itself, serving as the town’s sparkling Metro Plex.

We  got out at the “mall” and walked around as he explained what it used to look like, what he designed and why, where people gathered and the sense of community that had been established. The Mall is gone as are most of the businesses that once occupied it. But the strangest thing…when the Mall was taken down, all the pillars once supporting the massive roof systems he designed  remained. So many of these giant pillars still have the original stained glass work in them that my father designed. It was  amazing to see the pillar that is my 87-year-old dad, standing next to the pillars he designed so that light, beauty and a sense of permanence filled the space.

The memories of dreams, love and families sustain us when the roof comes down.

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4 Responses to “Pillar of Strength”

  1. Lisa Kaser Says:

    This was an absolutely lovely piece of writing and acknowledgment to your dad. The part of visiting the mall and the description of the pillars was over the top good.

    I had no idea your dad was an architect. I love reading about architecture and architects. This was very moving.

    Bravo and thank you.


  2. What a gorgeous conglomerate of memories. I can’t imagine the pride you must feel knowing your dad has left the communities w/ his wonderful vision. Keep sharing these amazing memories…lovingly…linda


  3. Wow. Beautiful, Kristine. Love your dad’s legacy. Love the trip down memory lane.
    B
    The Middle Ages

  4. a Says:

    I so get this, dear friend. What a legacy.
    All this moves me so much…
    oxoxox


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