Dad – Happy Father’s Day, may you rest in peace

Picture of me, Bryant, and dad - 1983
Dad, I miss you every day. I’m going to leave with the piece I read at your funeral.

There are so many wonderful memories of my father that I could share, so I will just pick a few particularly memorable ones.

Since my father was a professor, he was able to periodically take sabbaticals, which enabled us to go abroad for extended periods of time.

In 1974 our family went to Europe for 6 months because my father was taking his sabbatical in Konstanz, Germany. My father drove us all over Europe in a Volkswagen Beetle. There were so many great places we visited (though being 7 years old, I’m sure I didn’t appreciate them as much as I would now) but one place that I really liked was the miniature city Madurodam in the Netherlands. It has 1:25 scale miniatures of almost everything in the Netherlands, including castles, city walls, churches, government buildings, an airport, canals, ports, pumping stations. I think that was one of the best places a father could bring young children.

In 1983, my father took a sabbatical in Cambridge, England. As soon as I enrolled in school there, I found out first hand about the difference in the quality of the education system between England and the United States. I was completely lost in biology and chemistry, so my father had to give me extensive help. In fact, he was shocked when he first saw my chemistry text, saying that this was at the university freshman level in the US. Fortunately, he did not need to help me with math, as I found that to be pretty easy (the credit does not go to me, but to my high school math teacher.)

My father was particularly interested in educational films (e.g. documentaries) and wasn’t very interested in “fluff” films, so I really appreciate that he would take Bryant and me to movies that we wanted to watch when we were kids, none of which particularly interested him. I remember we had a family outing to go see Jaws in Woodland soon after it was released in 1975. Since it was new, we ended up waiting in line for quite a while. I believe that was the first movie I ever saw that was not rated G. I think after seeing Jaws, he must have had some doubts about taking us to movies, but he still ended up taking Bryant and me to see Star Wars in 1977.

He would also support Bryant and me when we were playing Little League baseball. He would come to all our games, throw batting practice for us, and when we were selling tickets to the annual 4th of July pancake breakfast, he would always buy them, I suspect that he also told the neighbors about the pancake breakfast, because I usually was able to sell tickets to quite a few neighbors.

He was able to put up with some aggravations without saying anything. In addition to the usual balls on the roof (at this point, he had to retrieve any balls on the roof, since we were too young to climb the roof), he had to put up with an annoyance that related to the design of our house. Both Bryant and I used to “practice” our fielding by throwing a tennis ball off the back wall of the garage. The master bedroom in our house was right behind the garage. I never tried to hear what it sounded like from the master bedroom, but it was probably annoying. Yet he never got rid of us by telling us to go to the park to play.

There is one argument that I had with my father when I was 6 or 7 that I can still remember. My father was accompanying me one day when I was riding my bike to school. I arrived and locked my bike about 2 minutes before school started. The regulations stated that if you were late for school, you had to go the the office and get a “pink slip.” I said that I need to get a pink slip, but my father said that I could still make it on time. After arguing with him, I ended up being late, but if I had listened to him in the first place, I would have made it on time. I should have listened to him on this occasion, and in hindsight, I would have been better off taking his advice more frequently than I did.

Shang Fa Yang, 1932-2007

(Addendum 6/15: Another “In Memoriam” which describes your major contributions in plant biology. Thanks, Bryant.)


6 Responses

  1. I too, have lost my father, and I think of him on this day. Thanks for posting this. It’s a lovely tribute.

  2. Thanks. I hope your father didn’t suffer.

  3. Deeply moving. Thank you. It helps me to appreciate my father even more.

  4. Thank you. I hope you and your father have a great Father’s Day.

  5. The in memoriam article is also a good read.

  6. Bryant, thanks for the find.

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