An Iterative Tribute to Dad

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My dad devoted his working career to computer programming, so, in a nod to his chosen profession, let me honor his life by iterating through a few thoughts.

First, I should explain. To software engineers, the word “iterate” refers to a programming technique that takes a collection of items — like a list, for example — and goes through it, item by item, one item at a time, sometimes manipulating the data, sometimes passing it over to get to the next. In programming terms, this is called “iterating” through the list.

So, let me iterate through a list of things about my dad that come to mind.

I’ll start again where I started before. My dad was a programmer’s programmer. It was in his heart and in his blood. He had a strong affinity for it that he passed on to me. Then he took it a step further by introducing me to computers at an early age and nurturing in me a love for them and a curiosity as to how they work that continues to this day.

I feel fortunate to have had an early-era computer operator for a father. His foresight put me way ahead of the curve in my current job. It took my labor-intensive warehouse position and, by giving me a reputation as a computer guru when automation came, moved me out of the heavy-lifting department and into the heavy-thinkers department much sooner than otherwise would have happened.

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This was thanks in no small part to his taking me to work with him where I could experiment with and play with actual, real-world computers. I quickly grew familiar and comfortable with them. They became like magical electronic friends in a young child’s fantasy prehistoric forest. I’m not talking about these mosquito-sized, egocentric things of today that suck the life out of our relationships; I’m talking about the monstrous dinosaurs of the Pre-Microsoftian Era when spinning tape drives and behemoth consoles filled the cold jungles of corporations, and cables ran helter-skelter around the canyon-sized rooms like vines for Tarzan coders to swing their commands through. Like Jurassic Park for a Programmer’s Apprentice.

I would sit for hours while he worked, right next to all the Pepsi memorabilia his co-workers had given him (he had a reputation for being a big Pepsi lover) and playing old text-based games like Star Trek, Blackjack and Zorkian adventure games. It didn’t take long before I was so intrigued I began looking at the code for the programs and studying how the computer commands were strung together to make the computer perform its magic, inspiring me to code several of my own programs through my formative years.

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My dad often helped me with these programs, which brings me to the next item on the list: He had a teacher’s heart. Admirably patient with beginners, he always took the time to explain things as much as you needed and would answer any questions you had. But he didn’t always just give you the answers. He made you figure things out on your own with minimal guidance and direction, only as much as needed to keep you from getting too frustrated, but not so much that you got lazy or bored. This helped you memorize information and concepts through practical usage rather than hours of boring memorization exercises.

He also let you make mistakes. But then he helped you correct them. He encouraged you to experiment with things on your own, doing the things that interested you the most. I don’t know how many little programs I did on my own and with him, but it was a lot.

His teaching style was so subtle you often didn’t even know he was teaching you. You just thought he was participating as a normal participant, not as a teacher. Once he was teaching my son chess, but much of the session was so subtle I thought he was just playing. I didn’t realize he was making bad moves on purpose as a way to help Caleb figure things out on his own.

I should say I didn’t realize it until I stuck my nose into the lesson and spoiled it. I saw my dad make a terrible move, the kind of move that chess players call a “blunder”, and I immediately jumped in telling Caleb how to move in response instead of letting him figure it out on his own. My dad was not happy with me, Caleb was not happy with me, and, after I realized what was truly going on, I was not happy with myself either. I totally blew it and I felt terrible. I never got a chance to apologize, but now that he is with Mom and the throngs of other onlookers standing alongside the rails of heaven watching their loved ones run their races here on earth (like we see spoken of in Hebrews 12:1), I know he has now heard my apology.

Caleb hasn’t played chess since, which makes me realize just how special his style of teaching was, how much it encouraged a passion and joy and respect for the topic at hand. I also now wonder how many times my dad did that for me. How many times did I learn something from him without even realizing he was teaching me surreptitiously?

My dad also had a great sense of humor, at least in my opinion. He told me once that he felt like no one got his sense of humor, but in actuality, a lot of people did, and enjoyed it. I for one loved it when, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he would tell a joke or make a wisecrack and then giggle about it. That’s what his laugh was, more of an endearing bubbling-over of mirth rather than a deep belly-laugh.

My dad was one of the most sensitive and thoughtful people you’ll ever meet, yet it was amazing how he could keep it fun instead of overly sentimental. One of his favorite sayings to speak into the lives of others was “You are special. You are unique. You are loved.” When we were growing up, my sister Lacy was enamored with Princess Diana. Any time a Princess Diana news story came on, Dad would stop what he was doing and take the time to watch a few minutes with her. When Diana passed away, he perfectly mixed thoughtfulness with fun when he mailed Lacy a sympathy card. How ironic — yet somehow fitting — that Princess Diana died on August 31st and the service honoring my dad was also on August 31st.

Although my dad worked a tremendous amount when my sister and I were growing up, he still found a way to make time for us. And the more I think about it, the more I can see just how much. Here are a few of my fondest memories.

Lode Runner start

Lode Runner: A little white stick figure of a guy scurrying around mazes made of blue bricks, paths, ladders, and monkey bars. The pffttt, pffttt, clunk, clunk of drilling a path through the bricks to collect gold nuggets and fend off the Bungleing Empire guards trying to grab you and steal the gold back. Avoiding the guards making it a game of wits. Figuring out how to drill through the bricks to reach the gold without being trapped making it a puzzle game as well. This is the iconic PC game called “Lode Runner”. My dad and I spent hours working together to solve the drill pattern puzzles, growing closer together with each solved maze.

Basketball: I know, I know. It’s hilarious that a couple of short guys would be out in the driveway trying to show off our laughable basketball skills. Let’s just say we played as much “HORSE” as we did neighborhood pick-up games.

The Denver Broncos: We used to watch the games every weekend. I loved ’em. He hated ’em. Well, that may be a little strong. But he did get frustrated with them. It reminds me of a story one of my blogger friends told, except in my version I see my dad requesting that we have Broncos players as his pallbearers so that when they lower his casket into the ground the Broncos can “let him down one last time.”

Model airplanes: These had little gas-powered engines and were tethered by what amounted to a dual-kite-line control handle for flying them around in circles. He was so excited the first time he made one do a loop-the-loop. I painted a big one with Broncos colors; he just shook his head and smiled.

Model rockets: You know the ones. Those Estes models that actually flew up into the sky with battery-sized engines for lift off and usually a parachute recovery system for floating back to earth. We had a cool three-stager, as well as “Big Bertha”, a 6-foot-tall (seriously) rocket that I painted solid black and looked incredibly menacing. (Until it landed on the elementary school roof and broke one of its tail fins.)

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A memorable vacation: When we took a family vacation to Disneyland, the three of us went on the teacup ride while my mom watched. We were all laughing and giggling and having a grand time. Until Lacy grew nauseous. Her face turned as gray as Dumbo the elephant and her face as contorted as Pukey the eighth dwarf, the one that Walt Disney decided to cut. (Not really.) My dad was such a hero. As soon as he saw his little girl in distress, he grabbed that spinning wheel in the middle of the teacup, the one you normally use to spin it around, and, with the strength of Hercules, brought that entire ride to a standstill. To this day I have no idea how in the world he was able to do that, but there were several disgruntled riders that will attest to it. They were the ones pointing at us as everyone was exiting the ride and complaining about “that guy over there that made the ride stop and cut it short!”

Family games: We had several family favorites. We played Marbles, but not the kind most people think of. This was a “Sorry”-style board game that my great-grandfather made out of half-drilled holes on a wooden board with marbles for pieces and dice for moving.

And speaking of Sorry, we played that as well.

Uno was another family favorite, although before we could afford the actual card game, we first played it with a regular deck of cards and called it the bowdlerized name of “Spit on Your Neighbor”. We also played a card game called Spoons.

A board game called Careers was one of my dad’s favorites, but one of my favorites was called Payday. Talk about hilarious! We both loved the punny, satirical humor of the bill notices.

And of course, chess. Some of my earliest memories are of him teaching me how to play “The Game of Kings”. I don’t think I had even started grade school yet when he started showing me how the pieces moved. One of the happiest days of my life was the first time I beat him. I still have a deep love for the game and play whenever I can.

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Even though I’ll never totally understand all the complexities of chess, I think I now understand more of the reasons my dad made the choices he did. Even though I may have misunderstood him when I was younger, I can see now that it helped me become the person I am today.

Which segues nicely into the next iterated item on the list. Even when I didn’t totally understand why my dad did things the way he did, I always knew he was doing the best he could to keep his priorities straight. It was always God first, loving his family second, followed by work, and last but not least, helping others.

He always strived to put God first. He loved Jesus, and he wanted everyone else to know Jesus, too. For most of us, that’s enough said. If you don’t understand why he felt that way, be sure to find any one of us that called him family and we would be happy to explain it to you.

My dad always told me, more in actions than with words, that my wife is the most important person in my life and she deserves to be respected and treated like a princess. He encouraged me to treat my kids similarly. And he practiced what he preached. That’s just the way he was.

His work was important to him, but he tried to keep it in the proper perspective as much as one can. He was a very hard worker, and his success at his career proved it.

And he never forgot others. If you needed his help, he was there if at all possible and in any way he could. I guess my best example of this is when he helped my cousin fix his car. If I remember right, the transmission needed to be rebuilt. I don’t think any of us will ever forget Jeff’s old, bright yellow, Plymouth Valiant with the fuzzy interior. I used to love running my hands through that fur on the ceiling! But without my dad, it may have never made it back out onto the street.

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I’ve heard my dad was quite the whiz with cars even in high school and has helped more people than just my cousin keep theirs in good repair. I know he enjoyed working on them a lot. I don’t remember the red Chevy Bel Air I’ve heard he had, but I do vaguely remember his dark blue Chevy Chevelle and, even as a young boy, how sporty I thought it looked. I spent a lot of my time watching him work on our cars: stooping in front of a wheel in a white t-shirt changing the brakes; leaning over the engine with grease on his cheek adjusting the carburetor; laying on an old blanket under the car twisting a wrench over his head. I even saved his life once. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but I did save the day when a jack slipped and pinned his hand under the car. He told me to run to the house to get Mom so she could jack the car back up. I don’t know what he would have done if I hadn’t been there. Yay for me! I could feel how proud he was of me.

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He also helped me with my own cars. When he taught me how to change the brakes, he told me to always sand down the drum to keep from having to replace the brake shoes as often. (A skill I appreciate learning even though it’s no longer needed since brake drums are all but extinct and I don’t work on cars anymore. But little did I know, I learned more from that lesson than I realized!)

For my final thought, I am amazed at how much of him I can see in myself. To borrow from some clichés, as concerning my father I am…

Cut from the same cloth…

An apple that didn’t fall far from the tree…

A piston off the same block…

Programmed in the same language.

Like the song says, “I see my father in me.” I’m far from perfect, but I’m thankful to him for instilling so much of himself into me. In addition to the traits I’ve already mentioned, here are a few more that we share: He was humble. He had laser-like focus on the task at hand. He usually took all the blame even if it wasn’t totally his fault. He was also very wise.

And he was kind, always. As Lacy puts it, “No matter how much he was suffering, he was still the kindest person I knew. It was truly amazing.”

May I carry on in me these positives of his legacy while sanding the rough edges off the brake drum of my soul. (See, I do still need that car repair skill!)

So, my iteration is done. In programmers’ terms, FOR EACH item in my list, I COMMENTed on it, THEN, WHILE there was still another, moved on to the NEXT. IF a NEXT was NOT, OR, in other words, IF the NEXT EQUALS NULL, THEN I had reached the END, and the paragraph block was EXITed. (Don’t worry if you didn’t catch on to all that. My dad is smiling at all the capitalized computer commands I strung together in those sentences.)

And now that I have finished this iterative tribute to his life, won’t you join with me in my pledge to continue to honor him in all areas of my life:

I will honor him in my relationship with my God, and in my relationship with my wife.

I will honor him in the way I treat my kids, and in the way I treat the rest of my family.

I will honor him in my work, and in the help I give to my friends.

I will honor him with my programming, and with my writing.

Why?

Because I am proud to be…

The Next Iteration of my dad’s heart and of his spirit.

I love you Dad. A lot. I know you’ve loved me for as long as I’ve lived, but I have loved you my whole life.

And always will.

fam_Lyons_CO


NOTES and ATTRIBUTIONS:

If you’ve explored my blog much at all, you know that one of my best and most popular posts was the eulogy I wrote for my mom . Yes, that means I am now am orphan. I feel like a little boy again, one that has fallen out of the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. If you’re interested, it is called “The Fingerprints of Mom“.

If you attended my dad’s funeral and are here looking for a copy of the original piece as read at the service, contact me with your request. Let me know who you are along with an email address and I’ll send it to you in whatever format you prefer: pdf, docx, txt, or the content of an email. Just let me know in your request which one you would like. If you like this blog version, I can send you a copy of it as well. Or instead. I’m happy to send you whatever you want.

I couldn’t make it to the funeral, so I wrote this tribute to him for my sister to read at the service. The names have been changed to protect family privacy.

My sister released a flock of balloons into the sky at the graveside segment of the funeral service. Thus the featured image.

“I know you’ve loved me for as long as I’ve lived, but I have loved you my whole life” is a quote from my sister in a conversation she had with my dad.

The computers, teacup ride, and blue Chevelle images are courtesy of WikiCommons Media.

The pictures with my dad are courtesy of The Clark Family.

Other images are from Pixabay.

The Broncos joke was adapted from a joke I read about in a post on a blog called The Phil Factor entitled “Death Doesn’t Have to be Boring“. (Be forewarned if you check it out, though. Some of you, my dear readers, will have to take some of his content with a grain of salt.)

One version of Lode Runner I have and still play often is the classic version for Android on my phone. It’s available on Google Play.

If you’ve ever written a eulogy for a loved one, I’d like to read it. If you have a link to it, post it in the comments so I and others can check it out when we have the chance. If you don’t have it online and would still like to share it with me, you can email it.

If you enjoy my writing, please Subscribe to my blog below.

I’d also like to share with you A Special Thank You for reading.

And, lastly, I invite you to check out the list of My Personal Favorites.

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62 Comments

  1. What an incredibly heart warming, wonderful tribute to you father James. I loved it, and I can see you are aware how fortunate you were to have such a kind and thoughtful dad, gratitude is immensely important I feel towards the people we love and so many take for granted that which they would be sorely lost without. I too have been blessed with such a father, and cannot imagine life without him, though that time will be here in the next few years without doubt. I have no eulogies, I don’t attend funerals unless it is to support someone else who deeply needs my support. I will go to his because it will be expetcted, and it would upset the rest of the family were I not there, however, but I will be celebrating his life outside of any ceremony every day from the time he leaves onwards.

    – Esme nodding and giving James a hug upon the Cloud

    Liked by 2 people

  2. James, I see much of my father in your father. And I know what you mean about becoming an orphan, once both parents are gone. That those left behind feel that way is, I think, an apt measure of who they were.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. James, what a lovely, touching tribute to your father. You were a lucky, lucky man to have such a role model. I do believe good fathers are the great unsung heroes of our time. I also believe that sperm does not make a father, and that many men sadly do not embrace the role as they otherwise might. And the damage that is done passes on from generation to generation. Likewise, the good, as in your case. What grace.

    Your father likewise seemed to embody his faith – also in short supply in this world. I personally do not care what deity a person worships or pays homage to – a rose by any other name, and all that. Yet to worship and then fail to heed the teachings of said deity is almost worse than remaining ignorant of a higher power. We are responsible for what we know.

    Lastly James, I, too learned most of what I value in this life from my father. He was a confused, tortured man, so there was this great paradox which was hard for a child to understand and cope with. But in the end, my love of nature, the classics (literature, music), of sailing and food; an inquiring mind and my love of architecture and design is all due to his introduction in my young life. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Well met. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is trully a moving tribute to your dear father, James. Having lost both my own parents your thoughts and feelings so beautifully and heart-warmingly conveyed here I so understand. I too felt orphaned when my Dad passed, just over two years after my Mom. I felt void and desolate. But it was only after my Dad passed that I realised how much he lived on in me. I suddenly became acutely aware of my mannerisms and my little sayings and doings, which I had not noticed before. Yes, this was Dad inside me, peeking out. Thank you for sharing such a lovely post, James 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi James, what an incredibly moving and beautiful post to your father, it truly touched my heart and in fact I’m writing this with tears in my eyes. He sounds like an amazing man who passed on so many of his talents, gifts and attributes to you. How fortunate you were to have such a man in your life. I understand and appreciated a lot of what you wrote about the coding and programming as my 16yo son is also passionate and gifted n this area. Thank you for sharing your heart and your memories with us . I too am an orphan now, I lost my mum last year. When I have time I’ll have to go read some of your other posts. In the meantime I send you a big hug and wish you peace and love. Warmest wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. James,

    Sounds like your Dad was a great programmer and person, and gave you a great life program? (Thanks for sharing).

    RUN

    INPUT
    Jesus gave His all. Live like Him.

    IF
    Jesus is your Savior

    THEN
    Live like Him

    OUTPUT
    Life everlasting

    GOTO IF
    (You’re in an endless LOOP)

    Else
    NULL

    ENDIF
    END

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still can’t get over how perfectly apropos this program that you wrote is. It astounds me just how profoundly it honors my dad on so many levels. It is truly inspired.

      I just had tell you again how thankful I am to you for the gift of the program, as well as to all my other friends for their thoughts and prayers and kind words, and to God for bringing all of you into my writing and into my life.

      Thank you seems so inadequate, and yet it is all I’ve got, so that makes it everything.

      Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are most welcome. I’m sure the program in reality is written incorrectly (I was never much of a programmer. I did manage small databases for a group of researchers at a hospital, but very little programming. I’m definitely old enough to remember COBOL though so I’m a little familiar.) Glad you liked it. As I wrote it I did truly feel “lead” to do it so I had the feeling it was coming, as I’ve said before, “from above”. I don’t mind at all being a messenger from there. God bless and I hope you will be comforted by His Grace, knowing your Dad is “hanging over the rail of Heaven” watching. He might have even been in on sending me with the program…sounds like him.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This is really lovely. My Dad was an academic and a historian but he was no teacher of his children. It used to puzzle me but I think he could not go back to a ‘beginner’s mindset’ and imagine what that was like. I remember once being given an essay to write at school ‘What is history?’ and my mother telling me ‘Go and ask your father.’ I can remember absolutely nothing of the encounter which seems to suggest it did not go well! However I am a writer and am currently writing historical fiction so there is absolutely no doubt that I am my father’s daughter and the setting of my WIP is Oxford which was the city he spent his working life in and loved. Your Dad sounds a wonderful man, I especially like the Disneyland story. Hercules indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. He wasn’t perfect, but he was awesome! I’m going to miss him. At least I can take comfort in the belief thay he is watching me run my race from heavenly grandstands rooting me on as one of my biggest fans!

      Sounds like your father had a bigger impact on you than you realized.

      Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He was. I’m going to miss him. We’ve talked about my affinity for programming before since your son also shows a propensity for it. He was my inspiration. It was his style of teaching it to me that gave me such a passion and talent for it.

      Thank you for your condolences, and for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do him the honor of reading my words and commenting on them. You are appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a special post, James. I am so very sorry for your loss. I feel like we are close friends through our blogging stories and I gotta say…this just breaks my heart. My heart hurts for you and I want you to know, I’m praying for you to find some comfort. Your dad sounds like he was an incredible man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was, and thank you very much. Your friendship means a lot. You’ve become like a sister to me. In fact, that’s why I used the name “Lacy” for my sister’s pseudonym when I changed the names. Which makes your usage of the word “story” to refer to blog posts all the more interesting since that’s the word my sister uses as well.

      Know that, like my dad would say, you are very special.

      Thank you for just being you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. When I first started working on it, nothing was clicking. But as soon as the inspiration came from my blog name to use “iteration” to tie it all together as a tribute to him and his programming career, then it almost wrote itself.

      Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful and beautifully written. If you’re as good at programming as you are writing, then you are one heck of a programmer. Your dad sounds like a fantastic guy and I’m sure he’s touched by your eulogy. I am also touched that you included me. Thank you for letting me know this was here to read.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow! That IS amazing! Some would say miraculous. My dad would. He often told me there are no such things as coincidences, only Divine appointments. I’ve lived long enough now, and experienced enough inexplicable phenomena, that I tend to agree.

          Here’s to Pepsi drinkers everywhere!

          Cheers! *clink!*

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Cheers to you and your Dad. I even briefly fancied the notion that perhaps at some point you and your dad had drink Pepsi that I may have bottled, but realized that was highly unlikely since I live in a different part of the country from you and there’s probably a Pepsi bottling plant much closer

            Liked by 1 person

          2. James, would you mind if I used the anecdote you used in your Dad’s eulogy about him helping you learn chess in my next book as part of the main character’s back story? I think real life makes better stories than fiction.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a wonderful and moving love letter to your dad. You clearly admire him and spent a lot of time thinking about and unpacking all of the ways he’s impacted your life. The little things, like the chess story or how he brought you to work and let you tinker, struck me the most. Thank you for sharing the link with me! I loved reading about your dad and how you’ve iterated through his many contributions to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A truly moving tribute to your father. He sounds to have been a wonderful man & father, I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my father 20 years ago & not a day goes by without me thinking of him & in fact speaking to him, trying to imagine the much needed advice he might have given me. You’ve no doubt heard the saying, ‘Time’s a great healer’ well it actually is. Never forgotten, always loved & remembered 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m sorry for the loss of your father, James. You honour him wonderfully in this post and, it seems, in life. In terms of writing, you had me hooked with your metaphors of the jungle of the computer room where your dad worked! Looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

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