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For My Father on Father's Day
Sunday, Jun. 15, 2003 - 2:39 p.m.
Today's entry is dedicated to my father, Dale E. Landerman. He passed from this incarnation to the next on January 29, 2002. He was only 65 when he died. He was born in Yuba City, and except for when he served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, was a lifelong resident of that city. He retired as a teacher at Anna L. McKinney Intermediate school in Marysville, California, and was a substitute teacher. He was married to my stepmother Melynda, and preceded in death by my mother, Jo Ann Taylor Landerman, in 1995.
The one thing I always remember about my father is something he kept telling me, and something that lives within me to this day. "There are two kinds of people in this world: People who do what they're told, no matter what is right, and people who do what's right, no matter what they're told." Even now, I always make the effort to remember that.
He lived that philosophy up to the last day of his life.
He'd had heart trouble over the winter, but at the end of January, he was feeling pretty good. He walked down to the corner grocery store to buy a lottery ticket, like he did every Wednesday -- and walked in just as a robbery was in progress. He tried to subdue the gunman, but he collapsed of a heart attack and was taken to the hospital where attempts to revive him were not successful. He was compelled to try and help, despite his health problems -- and he died saving somebody's life.
The picture here is of me at the age of two weeks and one day, asleep with my father in his favorite chair, on the morning of April 22, 1965, my father's 29th birthday. I had been up for several nights in a row with colic, and my mother begged him to pull a shift with me so she could get some sleep. He agreed to do so, promised faithfully that he'd stay awake and see to me -- and fell asleep. Early that morning, my mother got up to check on us, found us both sound asleep, and took this snapshot. It's my favorite picture of us.
My father was one of those men who took the extra effort to make the world a little less painful. He worked with children who needed special education. He sang in a barbershop chorus. He always stopped to help people change tires. He never overlooked an opportunity to help people in distress, or keep them from making mistakes. And I carry that with me inside me, even now. After he died, so many people tracked me down and told me wonderful stories about his influence in their lives. People respected him. He's part of everything I ever do. In fact, that's why this diary was created -- in the hopes that somebody will take something from it, and be healed, or avoid the same kinds of problems.
There's a fable about a little child who is running up and down the sand, picking up the beached starfish, and throwing them back into the ocean. A man comes along and sees what the child is doing, and finally decides to tell him the bad news. "There's no way you can save them all. Some of them are going to die, no matter what you do. The tide will wash them ashore again anyway, so I don't know if your hard work is going to matter."
The child smiled, picked up a starfish, and hurled it as far as he could, out into the sparkling waves.
"That's okay," he said to the man, "It matters to THIS one!..."
Dad, you always kept throwing the starfish back in the ocean. And so shall I.
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