Memories & Mainframes

Memories & Mainframes

Growing up, I always knew Dad headed up a business. My Mom tells the story of when in kindergarten, we were asked to talk about what our parents did (Recall that it was 1971...). When I told the teacher that my Dad was president of a computer company, she didn't believe me and called my Mom. And needless to say, Mom said that I was right. (image credit) Dad designed and worked on computers before PC's existed. He founded SRI with three other men, which became one of the first worldwide telecommunications firms. I still recall seeing the huge mainframes at Dad's work, and the stacks of cards used to program those systems.

I am told he began the company with a mortgage payment, when Mom was pregnant for me (1966). When I was 15, he and his partners sold the company to Borroughs. He (or Mom, not sure....) framed the contract signature pen with the phrase "Success" on a small silver plate below the felt tipped pen.

After selling SRI he (at the grand old age of 40) and Mom "retired" to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. However, after a while Dad responded to all the calls from past employees in East Lansing, Michigan and came back to found another company.

I used one of his company's PCs when I was a sophomore (1985-1986) at Regis College in Denver Colorado, printing my papers on a daisy wheel printer.

My Dad's father had been in the Navy and later sold real estate in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (where my Mom and Dad met). I am told that while Grandpa D. had no idea of what Dad did, he was very, very proud of him. So later when my Dad expressed his confusion over social media (before Alzheimer’s) and my work on sites such as LinkedIn, it felt like I was following Dad's steps in my own way.

These days, Mom is the holder of both family and business memories. Dad checks in with her, to remember, relish and sometimes be sad. When I and my kids visited last summer, I saw what happened every morning after Dad woke up. Mom would literally help him rebuild that internal lattice of memories. They would sit on the porch or at the kitchen table as Mom reminded Dad of everything he was and is, of everything she was and is, and all those years of love, commitment, challenges and changes between them.

One morning, before going out on the porch Dad turned to my oldest son and said "N., for all that's happening right now, I would not trade one moment with Andrea's Mother for anything."

These days those conversations don't happen much, as Dad's Alzheimer's worsens. And I will always recall seeing their faces as the vibrant and amazing portfolio of 50 plus years of marriage rolled forth, often with their hands clasped across the table as they looked at each other.

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