The Kindness of Strangers
My father died when I was just 16 months old. He didn't know he was going to die. He didn't know the scuba diving excursion would end in tragedy. He didn't know he wouldn't see me grow up, graduate from college, marry a wonderful woman who would give birth to the grandsons he would never see. Those are some of the things he didn't know.
Here are some things I grew up not knowing. I didn't know what my dad's ideas were about politics or religion. I didn't know what made him laugh or get angry. I didn't know if he was fulfilled in his work.
I don't know a lot about my dad because my mom got a new husband pretty quickly and built a new social network. Later we moved to a different state. My dad's family was small and we didn't see them much. They've all been dead now for a long time.
A few weeks ago I had the idea to contact the alumni office where he attended dental school. I asked them if they maintained a listing of the others who graduated the same year he did. They did have a list and sent out a letter to his alumni explaining that I was interested in hearing from anyone who remembered by father. Over the last few weeks, I've received letters, phone calls, and emails from several retired dentists who were friends of my father.
These are men in their late 60s and early 70s who knew my dad 40-45 years ago. They've shared with me a few stories and some insights I would otherwise never have known. I feel like I know my dad a little better than I did before and I have a few stories to share someday with my boys.
My life has been touched by the kindness of these strangers. The staff of the alumni office at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry and the members of the class of '59 are some pretty wonderful folks.
Originally posted 09/15/2004