Bruce Broker: My Dad
My oldest memory of Dad is sitting on his lap in the rocking chair, and he is singing the “Sigma Nu Lullabye”. Really, it was a fraternity drinking song, but Dad sang it to us when we were on his lap, rocking before bedtime.
So a toast to the past, a toast to the future and let there be no sorrow. For Remember when the sun goes down, it returns with a bright tomorrow.
Below, writing in italics is what I shared at the memorial. I decided to begin with the Awkward Part:
Mom here at the memorial, except in her thoughts. She and Dad were Married 15 years. Although their marriage didn’t last, she always loved him. Cathy, you became the love of his life, and you were his light and purpose for 38 years. I think mom would join me in thanking you for making Dad’s life so full and rich. It’s you who have made him happy. If mom were here, she would tell you all, “Bruce was one of the good guys”.
Mom also gave me insight into Dad’s spiritual life. She called him a “Jesus loves me kind of guy”. I took it to mean naive and simplistic. Now, I see it differently. Not childish, but childlike. The wonder and awe of a child. We went to the Methodist Church in Mesa Verde, where they sang in the choir and we went to Sunday school. We had Sunday school upstairs, and I remember the slants of light coming in and glittering in the dust. I thought it was God’s magic light. Being a child of God is seeing magic in everything. That’s Dad.
Playful, childlike, fun. Cheerful. Happy. Silly.
Dad was always smiling, and trying to make us smile. My brother’s name is Ffej. I forgot how it started, until I saw a note from cousin Diane saying Dad called his sister Arabrab. I’m Yram Nnyl Recorb. It was Dad. He loved playing with words. He could tell the story of Rindercella and the Pransome Hince. Playful, silly fun.
Memories come in lots of ways: sights, sounds, smells. Science says that smell may be strongest memory sense.
The smell of buttery eggs frying in an enamel pan. Mom wasn’t around much, so Dad and I shared mornings together, with fried eggs when we had time, Carnation instant breakfast when we didn’t.
Chemically smells: photography chemicals for a makeshift darkroom. Grecian formula to darken his hair. Epoxy glue: you mix two puddles into something strong enough to mend anything. Fermenting blackberries outside my bedroom window, part of his experiments in winemaking.
Dad smell: I’d put my face into his pillow, or my whole head rustled in through his clothes in the closet. The Dad smell. It was perfect.
Trumpets. Music. He played trumpet in school. He Played a killer trumpet-piano duet with mom of the Carnival of Venice (Jeff and I tried to do it later). Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians singing Christmas. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, mariachi bands, ukeleles, and Neil Diamond. All these say “Dad”.
Garage sounds. Garage door of doom. Sounds at night through the wall. Voopa voopa of the saw. He had a pegboard wall of tools. Beautiful wooden hand drill. Love the names of tools: Soldering iron, Vice grips, Epoxy. He used the soldering iron and a radio shack kit to make a Philco stereo tuner and speakers. If you broke anything… anything… he could fix it with the vice grips and epoxy. But the best was when Dad was out in the garage puttering at night. I could hear him through the wall, and I knew that all is well, he would protect us, and we were safe.
1965 Mustang. Metallic Blue. NOT a fastback. Bought, not leased. The mustang carries many stories… Mine is about some important life lessons.
I learned from Dad how to wash a car. You have to keep the water running on the surface as you wash, especially when you OWN the car. When it’s time to rinse away soap, you use your thumb to turn it into a power washer (also handy washing down the patio). Dad taught me how to drink water from a hose….from any faucet. I can smell it now, water coming out of a hose. Dad.
Family cars. Station wagons. Other than the mustang, all of our cars were station wagons leased from Ford. Station wagon memories:
Dad driving us to the Hougardys. Before Agoura…we would fall asleep, and Dad carried us to the car (pretend sleeping). Sleeping in the way back, watching city lights swing by, thwub, thwub, watching lights of distant cities, back before So. Cal. was completely filled in.
Hougardys…are family. Dad met them when they first got to California. They’ve known Dad longer than any of us. Shared Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Years Bowl Games. Turkey, ham, mince meat pie (who knew it was raisins, not meat). Disneyland and bowling. Family movies.. 8 mm…taking, making, watching. Ron, Debbie, Darron (Gary came later) made movies where we Became go carts running driving around on the ground. Built Brokardy Land together. We shared a cabin at Arrowhead. Many years in between, I’m so glad we can be together now.
Vacations…the station wagons drove everywhere. Back before Hawaiii, we visited every state and every national park west of the Mississippi, and a few on the other side. Jeff mentioned Jenny Lake….that’s where Dad caught a huge fish, and I got a concussion falling when trying to carry Jeff on my shoulders.
But my favorite car trip was…
When I was 17, Dad took me on a College tour. We got in the wagon-of-the-year, and headed north. We saw UCLA…where he got his MS in mechanical engineering….too city for me. Then Santa Barbara…nice. We made a stop at Vandenburg AFB to watch them test his missile. Unfortunately, the lettuce train would stop to watch the launches, which means they can’t launch, and I learned the word “scrubbed.” We headed north to Oregon. Eugene, Corvallis… Green trees, bricks and ivy, where I live now. Pretty. Keep going…Walla Walla…out in the middle of nowhere! Definite no. From there, we zipped across the northern U.S. To Wisconsin (no college visits, just family visits, and picking blackberries. From very thorny blackberry bushes. We headed back west with a 5 gallon bucket of blackberries. In Nebraska, Dad said we absolutely must stop in Omaha for the best corn-fed steaks in the world. Then, heading into Colorado, over golden plains, over a rise, opening up to the panorama of flat irons over Boulder, Colorado. Ding…..and this school is Juuuuuust right. It didn’t really matter what they taught there. It had mountains. Dad called it Berkely East, but he supported me patiently. From there, it was a straight drive home, and we plunked that bucket of blackberries down under my bedroom window. Did I mention that smell is a strong memory trigger? Those were his days of experimenting with winemaking. Taking a trip to see colleges was pretty cool. The fact that it was just Dad and me: priceless.
I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend these last years, and especially last months. But, Visiting dad in December, I was distressed when, several times, he would wake from sleep and his face would go into all sorts of contortions. I worried it could be some sort of seizure.
But then I as I gathered photos, I saw his silly grins and twisted faces, and remembered: that’s how he would make me smile. Make us smile. That and Donald Duck talk. And the last day I saw him, Christmas Day, we were sitting kind of teary by Dad. He no longer was able to get up out of bed, but he threw off the blanket and tried to get up, saying “must make cheerful”.
This is a story I’m ashamed of. We were at Jeff and Megan’s wedding, on an island off Georgia, and Dad was dancing.
Dad can’t dance. Well, let’s say, he doesn’t dance very gracefully. As I watched him dance I felt embarrassed. Looking back, I feel ashamed of myself and grateful to him. I dance like he does. Not very gracefully. But I don’t dance like he does, because i don’t dance. I want to learn how to let go of my image of how dancing is supposed to be, and just go out and dance like he does…just dance for the joy and fun of it. Playfully. Dance, not in spite of people thinking I look silly, but because being silly just might bring someone joy. That was Dad’s purpose: bring people joy.
My first day back to school after Dad passed, I woke up to the radio alarm. The song playing was “I Hope You Dance”. Got it, Dad. Thank you.
To close, I want to talk about Hawaii. Hawaii came after we kids were grown, but holds many many memories. I will see Dad whenever I see the Pacific Ocean. I’m taking some of his ashes to Hawaii this summer.
Dad and Cathy like to visit the Tonga Churches on Maui. Christian churches with aloha spirit. This summer, one of the sermons was about ho’oponoopono.
Pono means right action, integrity. Ho’oponoopono means coming together, face to face, in community, love…like now.
This summer, I also brought home a t-shirt from the Trilogy sailing company, the one we went on with Dad and Cathy, Jeff and Megan. The t-shirt has a circle ringed with Hawaiian words. ..”…………….When I got home, I started to research these words, these Hawaiian Values. I want to share what I learned about the meaning of Aloha, because I think it holds Dad’s message to us.
THE DEEPER MEANING OF ALOHA by Curby Rule
Aloha….. Is used to say hello or goodbye, and to express love. But Aloha is more than that, it’s a way of life. Curby says, ” Besides these common meanings, the word Aloha holds within itself all one needs to know to interact rightfully in the world.” It’s sometimes called “The Aloha Spirit” or “The Way of Aloha”.
If you break it down…..
A, ala, being present and aware
L, lokahi, working with unity
O, oia’i’o, truthful honesty
H, ha’aha’a, humility
A, ahonui, patient perseverance
“Be present, in unity and harmony with your real self, God, and mankind. Be honest, truthful, patient, kind to all life forms, and humble.” That’s Dad.
To the Hawaiian of old, Aloha meant “God in us.” Aloha also explains our “prime directive” while we are here:
alo: sharing, in the present oha: joyous affection, joy ha: life energy, life, breath
Dad is saying to us now, Aloha. Joyfully share life.
I hope you Dance.