T-shirt #233: Tower Pinkster Titus Associates Architects
I write a lot about heroes on this blog: super heroes, music heroes, sports heroes, and a few others not easily classified. But if I am being honest, the greatest heroes in my life are my family members: my parents, my Wife, my Step-kids, my Sister, assorted cousins, and some deceased folks. Today's blog will be about one such person who is a super hero to me: my Father, Robert Tower.
My Father worked for most of his life in an architectural firm that still bears his name. When we came to town, the firm was called Stapert, Pratt, and Sprau. Soon, it was called Stapert, Pratt, Sprau, and Tower. Soon after, Stapert, Pratt, Sprau, Tower, and Pinkster, and then eventually, it bears the name as seen in the t-shirt: Tower, Pinkster, Titus Associates - Architects, Engineers, and Interior Designers, better known as TPTA.. After these principals retired, the firm decided to keep the name, abbreviated to just Tower Pinkster, as that's all that people usually remembered of it anyway. The featured shirt displays my favorite TPTA logo. I really like the black and white pattern set off by the contrast of the red dot. I am so proud to be the son of such a prestigious and career-accomplished architect like my Father.
There's no meaning to why it did not appear until shirt 233. Mainly, we needed time to arrange for the pictures at the current Tower Pinkster location and to have lunch in Sushiya, which is downstairs.
Of all the heroes I can name, my Dad is in the upper echelon, the top tier, the best of the best. I love my Dad. I know that such a statement is not all that original. Sons are supposed to love their fathers. But I am not trying to be original, and I am not interested in doing what I am "supposed to do." I love my Dad very much, and I think he is an extraordinary human being, a great father, and a wonderful husband.
In my sophomore year of college, I took a course in the autobiography at Kalamazoo College, taught by Gail Griffin. I did not do a very good job on my final autobiography project. I had many things happening in my life that quarter that caused distractions. But I did produce some forty pages of story about my life in very rough form, and then, much to Gail's chagrin, I corrected the manuscript in red pen before I submitted this mess to her. Somehow, she read it all. I am amazed by that. As a teacher now myself, I would have returned it to the student unread with a note: "don't waste my time with unprofessional products." But Gail did not do that. She read it, and she felt that my exhortations and grand pronouncements of love for my Father hid a deeper layer of issues with him, with authority, and flaws in our relationship. At the time, I was deeply offended. Who was this person to tell me that I may not be truthful about my feelings toward my Father? Ridiculous. Not everyone has troubles with his/her parents. Some of us actually get along with our parents, live a good life not a dysfunctional one. I do think Gail had identified some pent up feelings that I had not examined too closely. But I also feel that everything I wrote was true: I do love my Father, and I think he's the best father in the whole world.
Is he perfect? No. But then, who is perfect? Robert Tower tried very hard to be perfect and few could match his exacting standards for himself, and so it was impossible to be better at things than he was. He was always busier than any of us and yet able to do more and meet his obligations better. My Dad followed through. My Dad improved on his father's way of fathering. My Dad was the best dad he could be, and our relationship has grown so much throughout my life that I am definitely closer to him now, even though we have always been close.
As I have become a kind of father myself (sort of a father), a step-father, I have grown much, MUCH more appreciative for the kind of father my Father is. I see so much of him in myself, and I always think about how he handled situations with me and our family as I try to determine how to handle situations with my step-kids and with my wife. I do make improvements. My Dad did not handle every situation perfectly. But the few quibbles I would make of his handling of me and our family are things that have changed about him in the man he is today. And the man he is today is even more extraordinary than the man of my childhood.
But there were plenty of times without injury, too. School projects, like the racing car derby, various science projects with displays aided by his art, and when I started doing magic, we constructed many things, including an elaborate table/storage cabinet with a large dragon cutout of wood and painted bright orange on the front (to be featured in a future blog post). My Dad served as Cub Scout pack leader, for which there were camp outs, projects, sales of Christmas trees, and supervision of meetings. My Father interceded on my behalf when I was being bullied. My Father bought me comic books and read me my first comic books as a small child. And even beyond comic books, he (and my Mother, too) engineered my love of reading with so many books and story times. My love of science fiction comes to me from my Father. My first science fiction book that I tried to read (The Andromeda Strain) in fourth grade came from my Father. Many of the science fiction books I gave him for Christmas and birthdays have become mine and are treasured possessions. There were hugs, family dinners, and glorious vacations. I cannot even describe all the wonderful times and the many memories I cherish in just this one paragraph (and with 132 t-shirts to go in my year, I figure I can come back to this subject).
|My Mom and Dad, Wedding Photo, 1958|
I am not sure I can ever repay my Father for all his favors, kindness, generosity, and love let alone the money he actually asked me to repay. And college. Because he was then President of TPTA and Bronson Hospital was the firm's biggest client, he was able to pay for my college education at Kalamazoo College, for which I am forever grateful.
Until recently (when he has become more weepy), I had only seen my Father cry twice. The first time was in a therapy session when I was a child. We met with a therapist because I was being bullied at school. The therapist hit on the fact that though my Father showed his love for me in a million ways, he did not say he loved me. And so the therapist made sure he said it in the session. When I revealed that I was not sure that he did love me, he cried. I was deeply touched to see him cry. More touched on his second cry, which will be described in the next paragraph, but one more thought here before I move on: the guilt trips he inflicted on his family, especially my mother, was the part of the cause for her eventual therapy and now mine. Though this was (not so much anymore) one of his few character flaws, as flaws go, it's not a terrible one to have.
Now, my Father is retired from the firm, and he is my Mother's full-time caregiver as she cannot bathe herself, cannot dress herself, and may not be able to continue to feed herself (though for now she does all right). My Father was known by the ICU nurses at Bronson (where my mother stayed for three months from March-June of 2000) as Saint Bob. The care he gives my Mother is an extraordinary feat of patience and love. I am awed by his commitment to my Mother and our family, and though I may never repay him for all he has given me, I try to support him as much as I am able (as does my sister and our third "child," and "adopted" sister Melanie). The picture above shows a proud moment for my Father as my Mother was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship by Kalamazoo Rotary, which is quite an honor and a distinction.
Back in June, my Father turned 78 years old, and he is still caring for my Mother, doing architectural side jobs, and running a household. He is an inspiration.
My Father is my rock. Thankfully, now that I am married, he is not my only rock or my number one rock since that distinction belongs to my wife. But I would not be able to get along without him. I rely on him a great deal. He still helps me often with my new role as husband, father, and home-owner. And in return, I try to help him as much as I possibly can. It's never enough. Those old guilt trips still linger, but they are not too onerous.
No short essay about the greatness of my Father would be complete without pictures of his shop. Though I did not talk much about his anal tendencies in this essay, these pictures speak volumes about that subject.
I love you, Dad.
Please live to be over 100 years old, so that we have many, many more years together. :-)
- chris tower - 1311.09 - 9:55