Newsline

Newsline , Society

Fathers, Time, and Wonder

Posted on Friday, September 1, 2023
|
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
|
16 Comments
Father lifting up young sun while on top of sand dunes in during sunset time in black and white

Sometimes I go talk with my Dad, just to catch up. I tell him how the kids are doing, and what they are up to, thank him again for things he did, and reflect on the state of the world – not good. We talk. He listens.

Former Navy, then NASA, then given to spending time in nature, he moved around a lot, enjoying rural Georgia. With too many ghosts and demons to wrestle, he left when I was nine, divorced, and then gone.

Oddly, those early years – contrary to popular imagination or misconception – were not all bad, not at least in ways a child remembers. My father had to travel a lot for NASA, but he was always Dad first. Trying to set the world right, in the thick of the fight, his range was enormous, but time passed fast.

He would go from work in DC, HQ or Goddard Space Flight Center, to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, on to places like Guam, Australia, back through Houston, occasionally the Cape, then home.

Working on NASA’s tracking stations, he knew math, physics, and his way around the world. Of course, he would return with gifts for the four kids – maybe a conch shell, a model, or something unusual.

Always and without exception, before and after these trips, he would kneel beside my bed and scratch my back, telling a story. Sounds odd, but kids remember these things. They never forget. He never forgot.

Even in those days, Navy and a broken childhood behind him, he had relentless enthusiasm for life, for space, human space exploration, rocket ships, a lunar eclipse – but also a gurgling brook, the odd book.

On nights when there was a lunar eclipse, he would put a blanket out. We would watch the night sky and imagine it was watching us. He would explain. We would fall asleep listening, moon and stars glistening. 

He was defined by a quest to expand his mind, moved by curiosity, an unremitting desire to test himself against the world and imagine what lay around the next corner before others saw the corner. His focus was S-band radar or earth-to-moon communications. 

When I caught up with him decades later, NASA was far behind. He was his old self, in part. The anger was gone, seriousness there, but in place of the old challenges, a new one, aphasia. He had been hit by a truck – cycling, of all things. Communications – his core strength – was a challenge, but his memories were good.

In those days, a lot of catching up was done. Time is precious, and he had lost more than communication skills. He had lost the irretrievable and desperately tried to reel it back in. We got through that period fine, long reintroduction. Now, he taught a new lesson – patience with fate.

When talking got tough, communication links went down, putting him on the dark side of the moon. I would just take the con, reminding him how he scratched our backs and scratched his until he slept.

Humbled by things that came around corners he did not foresee, brought low by the elements of life we imagine will not find us, he was at times his old self and something new – all there, self-aware.

Sometimes, I just go outside – as I did last night – and look up at the moon, swaddled in clouds, or search for random constellations. After all, the wisdom of our fathers resides there.

Besides, he knew them all: moon’s craters by name, sky’s wide ambit, filled as it is with archers and bears, sea goats and water bearers, a bull, lion, Libra, and fish fins, crabs, and Greek twins.

He worked on Gemini, as well as on Apollo, and one regret is that we parted before the talk on those programs was shared, but even today, we share a lot. He reminds me to stop, to think, to wonder, to value the greatness of this nation, to value time with kids, time with people everywhere, and to value the goodness of time.

I remind him, on these occasional visits, that two of his grandchildren who majored in physics know their math and ponder space as he did. Like him, they love to communicate, are filled with enthusiasm for life, his flavor of wonder, ceaseless yearning to learn, depth and desire to inquire, hearts variously at peace and on fire – that they love nature too, and value that thing he knew so well of time’s inexorable passage.

Then, more or less done, we part ways again. I leave him with honored neighbors, no longer troubled as once he was, no heavy burdens to carry, resting there in Arlington cemetery. I will be back, he knows. He will be waiting, ready to listen. He knows we have a world to set right. He is with us, knows stakes and mission, knows the stars he studied still twinkle, watch us and glisten.

The wisdom of our fathers, somehow the love of those we have loved, resides there.  

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...

The AMAC Action Logo

Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.

Donate Now
Share this article:
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
16 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ed M
Ed M
6 months ago

What a beautiful reflection which brought tears to my eyes. It also reminded me of things I could do better with my own child even at this late stage in my life. As Always Thank You

SusanW
SusanW
6 months ago

Thank you for sharing such a heartwarming and personal story. It brought goosebumps and tears at the same time. When we lose someone dear to our heart, either through divorce, death or both, a voice from within reminds us to look up, smile, and “chat” away. They are always there. He has much to be proud of, and so do you.

Lhett
Lhett
6 months ago

Thank you for sharing a look into your life. Your writing style was a give-away and like an old friend, attracted my attention. I look back to the times of my childhood and am amazed at the wisdom of my mother who had just a high school diploma, but never quit learning, and passed on so much knowledge to me.

Pat R
Pat R
6 months ago

Thank you Mr. Charles for sharing your tender and heart-felt memories. My children’s Dad passed away in 2006 and also lies in Arlington Cemetery. My son also works for NASA, an aerospace engineer, and visits his Dad’s grave each time he makes a trip to DC.
I hope my children feel those special kind of memories of me when I am gone as well. At 81+ I have no idea the number of days I have left. I will give my family as much love as possible until that time.

Nora Kuester
Nora Kuester
6 months ago

Oh my. How very lovely.

Rik
Rik
6 months ago

My Father was NEVER THERE for us! My Mother did a Fabulous Job with Raising 5 children. None of us take after our father! What my Mother endured qualifies her for Sainthood! Whereas my Father’s place in Hell is well earned! Though HE certainly was the Greatest Example NOT TO EMULATE!

Gary Schelvan
Gary Schelvan
6 months ago

This was such a moving tribute to the author’s father, who sounds Ike he was a complicated man. I lost my dear Pops some 9 years ago to prostate cancer, and I miss him so much. This inspired me to spend more time interacting with my oldest son, and his daughter, who is just 11 years old now. Time is so precious, and we never know how much is allotted to us by God.

Donnaco
Donnaco
6 months ago

This was absolutely beautiful. I enjoy reading all your essays!!

Brenda
Brenda
6 months ago

How beautiful. I sense a heartbeat here that vibrates my quivering soul. Thank you

An older blonde women laughing in the kitchen with a grey haired man.
AMAC’s Medicare Advisory Service
The knowledge, guidance, and choices of coverage you’re looking for. The exceptional service you deserve.
The AMAC App on 3 different iPhone
Download the AMAC App
The AMAC App is the place to go for insightful news wherever you are and whenever you want.
saving the nation event logo on black background for boomer bootcamp
Des Moines, IA / USA - 01/30/2020: President Donald J. Trump on Thursday 01/30/2020 speaking at his Keep America Great Again rally in Des Moines, Iowa at Drake University's Knapp Center.
President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address, Tuesday, February 7, 2023, on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
Group of migrants walking towards the Mexico and USA border after getting off Las Bestia train, Chihuahua, Mexico

Stay informed! Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter.

"*" indicates required fields

16
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Subscribe to AMAC Daily News and Games