It was a very good year.....
- Category: "Stardust"
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No USB sticks, no CD's, not so much as a dream of a DVD. Heavens only know what a "selfie" would have been defined in 1985.....much less a "selfie stick."
Very odd when I asked people to remember 1985-86, most remember the remarkably sad and mind-blowing. Very much like everyone alive when Kennedy was shot remembering exactly what they were doing the moment they heard the interuption over the television or radio.
But - at least in my opinion and the opinion of nearly all social anthropologists today - we were better off during these times. The simpler, less digital times allowed us to reflect more on others more than ourselves. We cared more about people. We talked to them, looked them in the eyes, had actual conversations with them where we could read body language, facial expressions and true emotions. We did not need silly "emoticons" to let others know how we feel. Good gosh....have we really regressed to that?
When I posed the suggestion to remember 1985-86, others did not reflect on anything "good", only the trauma of the times:
- Mad Cow Disease
- and the list goes on.
Few remember that it was 1986 that a major step toward world peace and rest took place with a simple treaty signed by then president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbechev of Russia.....or the fact that way back then, the US Government actually banned smoking on all trains, planes, subways and other public transportation.
What about things in YOUR life, personal things, that happened that were both good and bad?
I mention Halley's Comet return in 1985 because of two things: it was historic and it was "fun and good." A third reason might be that it is astronomy, which is what I do.
Those of you around at that time.....do you remember all the hype about it coming back? References to how great it was (it wasn't) in 1910 (the public had it mixed up with the "Great Comet of 1910" which was an entirely different comet....), and what to expect in 1986?
Such things, just like the death of John F. Kennedy long before, serve as benchmark triggers for our minds to recall more of a particular period of time than we would otherwise. Therefore, hopefully your memories of 1985 and 1986 are fairly good if you were looking forward to seeing the comet.
I say all this for very good reason: the years 1985-86 were incredibly productive and yet turbulent times for a particular young man of the sciences. At his peak in productivity through research, book publications, personal appearances and travel, the appearance of the comet and its subsequent demise will always be a benchmark, as well as a scar, in his memory.
While lecturing on the coming apparition of the planet Mars at the university in Tulsa in August, 1986 he was called away from his audience to hear his mother tell him over the phone:
"Your Dad has died."
My best friend, my mentor, the smartest person who I have ever met.....suddenly was no more. The man who called me virtually every morning and started every conversation with:
"How ya' doing? You have time for a cup of coffee?" I knew he was going to call....I knew he would ask the same thing.
"Golly, Dad, I would really like to but I am swamped today....." was always my answer. He knew that was going to be my answer, but he truly loved me and asked anyway.
Floyd Sherrod, Jr. at Pensacola Beach, 1972
Hours away, he would not be there when I returned from Tulsa. He would not call me that coming Monday and ask me out for coffee.
That late August night journey was far longer than its five hours....my mind was boiling with regrets, memories, confusion.
Thus, 1986 became a benchmark for me because it was my father's last year.
But there is an upside to all this perhaps. Throughout 1985 and into 1986, he followed me throughout the south as I lectured on the upcoming visit of Halley's Comet; he wanted very much to see the comet that his Dad had seen in 1910, yet he had difficulty finding it night after night. Fortunately I did take much time so that he eventually was able to realize that he, too, had seen the Great Comet.
"Really not so special...." I remember him say as he pulled the old 7 x 50 binoculars from his eyes. "Is it going to get better?"
It was very tough - no impossible - for me to grieve properly through all this; cannot tell you why. This man was the foundation of all knowledge and wisdom and truly the best friend that I ever had. In my mind I had lost everything that I had ever had. Forget the books, the travel, the notoriety, the "stuff". For the first time in my life I realized what a real father truly is.
Doc and Dad.....November 1949
You never know who your friends are until you need them....ever heard that phrase? I needed friends and support in 1986 and I did not have either apparently. Where were all the fair-weather acquaintances who were constantly under foot for year after year? The people who never hesitated to ask me when they needed my help? No where to be found.
The best friend that I ever had was my Dad; the irony was that he would have been the one to comfort me and counsel me through this grief.
Had it not been for an unexpected condolence phone call soon after, my perspective may have been totally different. Reaching out was a voice that I will always remember from 1986 and a voice which I have not heard since shortly after. It was not from all the "groupies" that seemed to always be around, not from distant family members....none of them called. Perhaps this person may have had a "benchmark year" in 1986 and will remember the fact that they made a huge difference in the way things turned out. The voice seemed like words from my father spoken through someone else's voice.
And I turned out just fine, would never change a thing. The year 1986 was my "fork in the road."
Life is rich and because of that unexpected phone call I have an outlook that whatever life brings in the future will also be rich.
Please....next time I call you and ask:
"How ya' doing? Got time for a cup of coffee?"
Please put down your smart device, hear my words in your ear and think before you answer.
Every one of us has a story that needs to be told.....a story that we need to hear.
Happy 100th birthday, Dad and I miss you greatly on this Father's Day.