Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Shark

Remembering Dad

Dad was a fly fisherman for years before he discovered free diving.   He grew up in Colorado and knew all the best stops for fly-fishing in the Rocky Mountains.  Our family moved to a number of small towns before we landed in San Diego where Dad took up diving.  

Every weekend Dad got out his wet suit, went diving for fish in La Jolla and collected abalone (this was the 1960s and there wasn't any limit on how many wild abalone you could collect, and apparently like the plains buffalo people thought abalone would last forever).   Dad cleaned it, sliced it and we took turns pounding the abalone into edible steaks.  We stocked so much abalone and fish in our freezer, we ate it all year, two or three times a week.  

Dad joined local diving clubs that hosted tournaments and with dad's competitive nature, trophies began multiplying on living room shelves.   When we moved to San Jose, Dad alternated between fly fishing in the Sierra Mountains and diving in Monterey.

Dad's diving friends called him the "Shark" until he  passed away a few years ago.  When we were cleaning out Dad's house, his diving buddy Perry stopped by and he shared diving stories and the story of how dad earned his unique nickname.

Dad had expanded his diving areas beyond California to Mexico and Belize.   Dad had gone diving with some friends in the 1980s.  Dad was in his 60s then. 

"We were diving off the coast of Belize and your dad hollered, 'Perry get my spear gun, quick.'  I looked and was shocked to see two sharks circling your dad."  Perry got dad's spear and started swimming towards him. He was nearly there when suddenly the sharks swam away.  Maybe they were harmless, maybe they were dangerous.  Dad never got a chance to find out.   

I saw a different guy when Perry talked about Dad, and I was really touched by Dad's friendships (and dogs, of course) that meant so much to him.  He attended his high school reunions for years and had friends that went back to high school.

After dad was gone, Perry wrote this great tribute: 

"Del you were the Shark . . .
We were dive partners and good buddies.  Though we were an odd couple . . .
An engineer and an artist we never had a heated disagreement.  You were good company and we did have some laughs during our adventures. I'm glad you got to read an advanced copy of the dive chapter in my latest book.  Diving California, Mexico, Belize and Tortilla were adventures you pulled me into . . . and I will always be thankful you were my good friend.  Del you logically avoided friction or futility, you liked things to go smoothly.  You were always engineering a good plan.  We got fun to go our way.  Those times are all treasured memories.  I'm glad you passed into this next adventure with no big  pain, mess or lingering fuss after eighty seven good years.  Good plan, Shark,

Del's old Los Gearous Reef Champ,

A rich man, when it came to friends, Dad had no shortage of friends in his liftime.  

Here's a salute to connections that make the world go round.  

Hope your Father's Day was a happy one!

Dad in the Coast Guard in The Marshall Islands during World War II

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