My Father and Kon-Tiki

My father died a few years ago.  Over the six decades that we both shared space on this earth, we certainly had our conflicts.  When I went to see him in the VA home for what I knew would be the last time, I thought of how I could make peace with him.  It struck me that if I truly believed the line I often say, “If every breath I have ever taken got me to where I am today, I would not change a thing” then, for the good and the bad, I owed him a debt of gratitude for being a part of who I am today.

I visited him in his room at the VA home and as I was about to leave I said “I just wanted to thank you for everything and say that I love you.”  He was startled like he did not understand what I had said, so I repeated the words.  We hugged and I left and drove the eight hours back to my then home in Memphis.  I spoke to my father once more on the phone before he died.  In that conversation we talked about nothing of great importance – how Cincinnati Reds games were nowhere near as much fun at Riverfront Stadium as the old Crosley Field, and so forth.

When he died, we were at peace.  Since then I have gotten older, had a heart attack, been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and am closer to my own death.  Now I think more about what I have to be grateful for in my life.

Here is an example.  Today I watched the film Kon Tiki, made in 1950s.  The movie documents the adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s attempt to prove that sailors from South America could have traveled to Polynesia in prehistory.  I only recollect seeing the film once before.  I was about 5 years old and my father and I walked the 7 or 8 blocks from our house to the Plaza Theatre on Montgomery Road in Norwood Ohio to see the film.  It is the only time I remember going to the movies with my father.  When we were growing up my parents had maybe 15 books in the bookcase.  One of those books was Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl.

I reflected how important that movie and book must have been for my father as they both stand out as rarities in our 1950s existence.  I don’t know that I can attribute seeing Kon-Tiki at the age of 5 as a seed planted for my own ultimate career as an anthropologist and the associated travel and adventure.  As I watched Kon-Tiki today a feeling of peace and serenity came over me. I was taken back to a time when I went to a Saturday 5-cent matinee, with our own snacks because money was tight, and watched a movie with my father.  If I ever get back to Peru and stand on the Pacific Coast again, I will certainly think of Kon-Tiki, the Plaza Theatre, and my father.


One thought on “My Father and Kon-Tiki

  1. Your father, my uncle, was a great man. I remember him showing me how to develop film and make prints in his darkroom on Hunter Ave. Also the family picnics and too many other things to mention. Continued strength for you, Bob.

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