Three Types

I feel like my father sabotaged me from the grave. I’d gathered the strength to do some sorting of his stuff, discarding things I didn’t think anyone would need – or want.

An early sign his mind was going – and he was fully aware of it – was an afternoon spent at his condo in Gainesville, maybe four years ago. He gave me a copy of his 1Password vault and more importantly, the master password to open it. There was a time he wouldn’t tell me how much he made for a living (re: my whole life) and now he was giving me the keys to… everything.

Ever his son, his last Mac sits running in the corner of my living room even today. I’m afraid of throwing it away without going through everything first… despite having multiple/full backups… in multiple locations (because that’s the way I roll).

Now, if you think there are a lot of things to go through when you’re cleaning out a house filled with a lifetime of memories, think about all the stuff that would accumulate on an engineer’s computer – one who didn’t throw away anything – and carried forward all the data from the last computer when he got a new one.

By the way, if anyone needs a license/registration number for a version of Quicken that’ll run on MacOS 9 (or earlier), let me know and I’ll hook you up.

So I was browsing a collection of encrypted financial records (and finding a more permanent place to keep ‘em), when I came across a seemingly lost text file with the name: “Three Types.” What follows is the full text from this file:

There are only three types of people in the universe:

Those that can count,
And those that can’t.

I love you Dad. I miss you.


Dad with Eric

James Kauffman, formerly of Dunedin (FL), Billerica (MA), and Altoona (PA), died on July 16th. He passed quietly with family at his side. Among those who remain behind to morn his loss: his wife Kathryn, his son John, his daughters Christine and Lisa, his sister Suzanne, a nephew Glenn, as well as four grandchildren. He takes with him his dry wit, an affinity for outdoor activities (bicycling, boating, etc) that you might not guess of someone who spent his life working indoors, and devotion to a woman he could not leave behind on a Massachusetts beach – more than fifty years ago. He was 78 years old.

Jim – as he was known to family and friends – earned degrees at Penn State University and Ohio State University, concluding with a master’s degree in Physics. He went on to work as an engineer for three different employers before he retired: Block Engineering, Honeywell, and Brunswick. However, he spent the bulk of his career at Honeywell, in Clearwater, FL.

Although he could be cagey about the specifics of his job (he once got into trouble for bringing his young son to the office on the weekend), he took pride in working on various projects over the years involving manned and unmanned spaceflight. Additionally, more than one creation bears his name at the U.S. Patent Office.

He rarely missed a week of Church at his long-time parish: Lutheran Church of the Palms (Palm Harbor, FL), held a number of offices on the governing council (including president), and seldom said no when asked to serve in any capacity.

Jim leaves this life much as he lived it. He spent much of his time savoring the quiet joy of a good book or taking the quiet satisfaction of solving puzzles – in many forms – both designed and spun from life’s exquisite chaos. Through it all, he always gave much more than he received.

A private memorial service will be held in the near future.

In lieu of flowers – in line with what his family believes would be his wishes – please consider either a gift to your local church or your local NPR Station.

James William Kauffman (1942 – 2021)

Dad slipped away quietly yesterday afternoon. Christy and I held his hands as he went.
He left with much more dignity than life afforded him in these last twelve months. His inability to find the right words for speech largely became an inability to speak. He went from walking to walker to wheelchair seemingly with haste. Six months ago he still fought the limitations which both grew in number and remained undefeated. He couldn’t tell us explicitly, but he seemed resigned… ready to go. So when an infection quickly began to overwhelm yesterday…

We let him.

There are moments when I find comfort in this. My mind tells me it was the right thing to do, but my heart feels pulped, and I struggle to accept I now live in a world that no longer has my father in it.

When we were four

When we were four

Originally uploaded by jkauffman

Once again my father has upstaged me in our computer arms race. It seems that every time I buy a computer he buys a better one. To be fair, our replacement cycles are similarly modest, he earns more money, and his computing needs are more robust… but come on dad! Give a nerd a break.

Well this time he didn’t get another computer – he just got the film scanner I’ve been lusting. (Not really a dedicated film scanner, but a mid-range flatbed with a transparency adapter for serviceable, if not perfect film scans.)

I’ve been longing for a film scanner for a while now, because most of the old family pics are slides. My grandfather took lots of pics with slide film with an old SLR, and so did my father… so there’s a treasure waiting to be pulled out and scanned for my library.

If I had the time saved I’d be tempted to take a week off from work, just to go over and sort through them all, digitizing like a mad geek.

This picture is an early sample my dad brought over a week ago. It’s me, my parents, and Christy at the old house in Billerica, MA – probably sometime in 1975.

Bad signs

Those are the kind of signs I don’t like too much… but who does? (Sometimes I think I just sit here and type shit, just for the sake of typing. Although, I’m getting to like this funky iMac keyboard, so there are worse things I could be doing that typing crap for the sake of typing.)

Dad’s making the drive to Chattahoochee for the first time this weekend. I thought I might go, but Cheryl thinks it’d be a bad idea, what with me being sick this week (again). To be fair, I can’t lay it all on Cheryl. I don’t much feel like spending all day in the car either. I’d sit here and tell you that my mother wouldn’t want me to get sick coming to visit her, but I’m not sure she’d notice one way or the other. The mom I knew ten years ago might not want me to come, but the 2007 model is pretty unpredictable. I’d tell you my dad would rather I stay home, but I’m not sure that’d be true either. It’s not that my father wishes me ill, but I think matters have gone way beyond being hard on him. I went by tonight for a lesson in cat feeding (a long story that I don’t feel like telling right now), and he let me in his latest fear… that his trip this weekend might be a waste. It seems the latest development is my mother is refusing my father’s calls.

If my father wasn’t already numb from nine months of hell, I think he would have been devastated. As it was, I could still see that it was hurting him. My dad would like to believe that my mother was making progress, but the bits and pieces I hear (many much worse that this) suggest she’s backsliding horribly.

The state web site for the hospital in Chattahoochee says it’s on the National Register of Historic places. This doesn’t make me feel any better, knowing the history of mental hospitals in this country (and to be fair, other places as well). I’m sure they’ve remodeled a few times since the original construction, but a reputation is a hard thing to overcome.

Is it me, or does it seem like I’ve typed this same entry at least a dozen times?

I just wish this was over. I’m well beyond hope. I’d just like to be done… and it feels like a horrible, despicable thing to admit. But in a way that’s o.k., because I feel pretty horrible.

I’ve decided that I’m going to put a stop to my habit of going in to work on mornings when I feel like shit, eking out a half day of work before going back home exhausted. Fuck work.

I’ve heard people say that swearing is the product of a mind that lacks creativity. Well you know what? I don’t feel terribly creative, but I do feel like a little catharsis is in order… and sometimes a little profanity is just what the doctor ordered. You may think I’m just saying that, but my sister is a doctor and she can swear like a sailor.

I suppose that’s enough typing for one night.

Leave it to my father

He says I’m a perfect square today. It took me a while, and I have the benefit of knowing what today is.

I’m six squared today.
(Dad’s an engineer, and we grew up with a lot of math in the house.)

My dad is always good for a “huh?”

… followed by a nice chuckle.

What do I write now?

I’ve long ago run out of words. Everyone is in bed, it’s just me, and I want to feel better. A Mac keyboard has been my outlet for a long time… going back to the good old Mac Plus days after my high school graduation. Now? Nothing.

It seems like even these words have graced my screen before. Simply put, my mind is a hollow shell.

In this ongoing medical drama, I feel worst about my father. (I wrote about him once, though I never shared.) The depression, anxiety, and psychosis have been a life long horror for my mother, but I can’t help but wonder if nothing’s left at this point. On the other hand, my father’s all there… in far too many ways. Once you get beyond the bizarre nature of psychosis, in some ways its easier to see my mother like this. She’s been fighting psychological demons for most of her life. However, my father’s always been steady. He’s always been the rock. Now he’s unsettled. Now he’s shaken. Now he’s the one that doesn’t know what to do. Mind you, he’s just as sharp as he’s ever been – and that’s pretty sharp, but the situation he finds himself in is one that has few answers, and LOTS of societal indifference.

So here I am… nothing of substance to say, wanting terribly to say something, and putzing around after midnight when I should be sleeping.