In Memory of My Father, Robert Allen Saulson
Time is precious, and the fact that our time together here on Earth is limited only makes it more so. My father was seventy years old when he passed away on Thursday, January 3, 2013… and to me, he was much too young.
Memories are precious beads running down my face like tears, tears are precious memories beading on my face like water, and I am stunned into bouts of silence and inappropriate laughter. We all grieve differently. We all tend to grieve over a course of time, not in the fitful spurts of appointed times for memorials and services alone – but also, in the quiet moments when we think of how much a loved one would have loved something we usually would enjoy with him. Love is a daughter picking up the phone to tell her father that someone in Australia is selling a hover bike. Love is a father listening to his daughter’s voice on the phone before letting go. Love is a son holding his dying father in his arms, because only moments before he was desperately trying to revive him through an act of CPR and my brother would be that son, my father would be that father.
Every parent, child, sibling, and grandchild has a relationship with his or her loved one so personal that no blathering of any writer ever will capture it. Our love exists unspoken, so how can words truly give meaning to what we already know? But my father’s daughter is a writer, and so to write about it is the most natural expression of love.
To love is to remember.
Besides, I have the feeling that my father would be very perturbed if I didn’t write about him. He believed in me in ways I never have truly believed in myself, and although I feel it is the prerogative of every parent to believe his or her bundle of joy is extra special – and yes, my parents always were and probably will always be my biggest fans – I think I will humor him, even now that he is gone, in his improbable belief that someday my books will be being made into movies. It’s not impossible, and what if that happened after I was dead, and I didn’t write a bunch of biographical material about my dad? He might have words with me in the afterlife, and well, I can’t have that, now can I?
My father did not believe in an afterlife, although I do… he had a few moments of speculation as to the possibility of an afterlife, and especially after Contact came out, because Carl Sagan was a hero of his. What he did believe was that he lived on through his children and grandchildren in a kind of race memory, like in Dune. I read Dune when I was twelve – my father left a copy around the house and I was one of those kids who could read well above grade level and would read anything that wasn’t locked away.
It gave me nightmares.
Leaving copies of Frank Herbert, and Peter Straub around the house could possibly be a way of accidentally raising a future horror writer. Believe me, I didn’t discover Poe until I was fourteen and by then I’d already been reading my father’s Asimov Science Fiction magazines for four years.
My dad was a cool guy. He was ahead of his time. He was one of those Sharper Image nerds who had every gadget they came out with in the 70s and 80s when we were kids. We had a computer in the house in 1980, a Commodore. We also had an Atari game system with Pong and Adventure on it. If I was an early adopter, it was only because my father was far ahead of the curb. By trade, he was a telecom guy. He fixed phone systems like Centrex, and worked for a place called Hawkins Audio on mall sound systems, basically Muzak. He was a technician before I was a technician.
I am Christian and I believe in heaven – but I also believe that children are like our parents, and that my brother and I are like our father. I believe that it made him happy when I started fixing computers and setting up simple daisy chain networks at the ass end of the 1980s, that he was also happy when I got recertified last year – ACMT, A+, Network+, simple certs – but not bad for a daughter. My dad used to think if there was any technical aptitude my brother would have to inherit it – not me, a girl. That was until he caught me taking apart his watch to see how it worked when I was nine, and he said, “I used to get in trouble for doing things like that when I was your age. By the way… you are in trouble. You better be able to put that thing back together again.”
And I did… with a little help from my dad.
My dad wasn’t ahead of the curb with everything, though: he was also nostalgic. In the 80s he drove a Yamaha 700 fitted with a stereo system – an 8 track stereo system that he installed, because he was convinced they’d bring back the 8 track – they had to. It was so far superior to the standard cassette. He also decried the failure of Beta to best VHS videotapes. He had video discs back when they were huge – 12 inch disks that where the size of records. He was filled with foresight in equal amounts to his reverence to technological betters of bygone times. He was my father – through and through, this was just who and how he was.
I’ll miss him.
There is more to say, but I can’t say it tonight. It’s too soon. The wounds are much too fresh. I just want to say that my dad – Robert Allen Saulson – was a special man. He was a family man, and he was special to his family. He was an imperfect man but he was my father and I never, ever, ever wanted a different one.
I loved my dad very much.