Today my dad, whom we ultimately called Buddy, would have been 106. Born on October 20, 1913 in Quincy, Illinois, one of five siblings, he grew up during the great depression. His childhood wasn’t ideal. He was the third of five kids – three sons, two daughters, one brother killed in WWII.
In the midst of the depression, he was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a numbers guy unable to find work, so he and his brother, Joe, applied for accounting jobs with Standard Oil in Venezuela. I think he was 25 or 26 at the time. Standard Oil’s subsidiary, Creole, hired him and Joe.
I think Joe and his wife Rosie, traveled to Venezuela first, then my dad followed in 1937 and settled in an oil camp in the town of Las Salinas, on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, which contained large reserves of crude oil.
When WWII broke out, my dad signed up and his travels sent him all over the world. On a leave in Tulsa, he met my mother on a blind date and six months later, on December 12, 1941, they were married. He returned to Venezuela with my mom. I mention this because to do this back then required guts. You essentially became expatriates who worked for an American company in a foreign country that was as wild as the wild west in this country in the 1800s.
And there, my sister and I were born, attended American schools, learned the language, the culture, and were always guided by our parents’s values. Work toward what you love, love what you do, love the people who are closest to you, be honest in all you do.
In the early 60s, I remember standing on the balcony of our apartment, watching a procession of cars fleeing the country, the dictator – Perez Jimenez – in one of those cars with $13 million embezzled from the government. He settled in Miami Beach. Not long afterward, Venezuela nationalized the oil industry and droves of Americans, including my parents, left the country. It was November 1963, a turning point in my life.
We have returned to Venezuela twice since then. In 1987, Rob and I traveled there with my parents and experienced a powerful synchronicity that was one of the earliest we posted on this blog. hWe even found the house in the oil camp where we’d lived in Maracaibo, the city where my sister was born.
We returned when our daughter was old enough to windsurf with Rob on the island of Margarita. In the years since, Venezuela has fallen into a black hole. Greed is to blame – not socialism, not the Republican talking points. This country, because of its natural oil resources, has always been prone to corruption.
In the 1990s, my mother developed Alzheimer’s, we had to put her in a facility, and my dad eventually moved in with us. Those years were pretty dark, involved a move to a larger house so everyone could have a room, and in retrospect what stands out for me is CHESS. My dad had been playing chess since he was a kid, and he and Rob, then he and Megan, played almost nightly. My dad never went to college. But he was a member of MENSA and Megan definitely follows suit.
Buddy died in late September 2005, just five years after my mom, a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday. He was tired. He had Parkinson’s. His wife had been dead for five years. He was in an assisted living facility in Georgia where my sister was the head nurse. A few weeks earlier, I had show him a video of Carol Bowman’s interaction with James Leiniger, a young kid who reportedly remembered his life as WWII pilot. At the end of he video, my dad was crying. “That’s the most convincing evidence I’ve ever seen for reincarnation.” I believe that video released him.
So, dad, happy birthday. And thank you and mom for all you did back then and since…