Monday, June 14, 2010

Robert Ottey (April 14, 1927 - June 14, 2010)

My father passed away peacefully this morning at 6:15. He'd been struggling with heart and lung issues for several years now. He was an amazingly strong man to whom I always looked up to as a child and a grown woman. It pained me greatly to see him in the state he was in these past years. A shadow of the man that I remember as a little girl. He was the one who fixed everything from a car that wouldn't stay running because of a small, broken, plastic piece in the choke, to a badly scraped knee I gave myself while showing him how fast I could run the obstacle course I'd designed in our backyard.

He grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania called West Fairview, as the son of the local Justice of the Peace. During his junior year in high school, he joined the Navy and served for several years at the end of WWII. He served as ship's cook, and every time I would catch the movie "Under Siege" on TV, it would make me smile and think of him. I imagine it always will. He later went back to school and got his diploma. Here's his Navy photo. To me, he looks like a movie star. Six foot four, blonde hair and brilliant blue eyes.

He was a very intelligent man who didn't show emotions easily, but you always knew they were there beneath his rather stoic exterior. It was in his eyes, which would sparkle with amusement or compassion and occasionally anger, from behind his glasses. He was also a very intuitive man who just KNEW when you were handing him a line of bull. But he also had a great sense of humour about it too.

When I was a teenager, my Mom found a pipe I had made from some scrap metal that I had obtained from his workshop in the basement. She gave it to him and needless to say, he wasn't pleased. Mostly because some of the pieces were made out of copper. He proceeded to tell me that copper, when heated, could produce fumes that could harm me if inhaled (Earlier in his life he'd also been a metallurgist for Bethlehem Steel). After turning the home-made pipe over several times in his hands, he looked at me bemusedly over the rims of his glasses and said, "Other than that.. the design is pretty damn ingenious." I think he was kinda proud of me at that moment. *smallsmile*

He was a mechanic by trade, and we spent many hours in his basement workshop, working on old, beat up, muscle cars that he would buy cheap, fix up and then re-sell. It was a hobby of his that he truly loved. He was a hard worker who always needed to stay busy both physically and mentally. My first car was a 1978 Mustang II that he fixed up for me. I loved that car. Two years later, I came home one evening after drinking a single beer at a friends house. My parents immediately smelled it on me. The next day he made me drive it to a car dealership in the area with my Mom in tow in a second vehicle, and promptly sold it. "I get it, Dad."

A year ago he decided he wanted to donate his body to science after his death. I get my love for all kinds of sciences from him. As a very little girl, he and I would watch Star Trek re-runs together. We enjoyed that old show so much. Laughing and commenting on things that caught our interest as we watched. He was like Captain Kirk and Spock all rolled into one, whereas my Mom was more like Bones McCoy, an emotional worrywart. Now, when I look up to the stars with these beautiful blue eyes that I was lucky enough to get from you Dad, I'll always be thinking of you. You taught me to fly.

The last words I spoke to him a few days ago were, "I'll see you again later, Dad." And I truly believe that. :*)