Today should have been my father’s 67th birthday.

Many of you know the end of his story: The documentary The Suicide Tourist tells it better than I can, and it can be streamed for free at Frontline.

I’ve talked quite a bit about his death. Overnight, I thought a lot about his life.


He always claimed to have been bad at making friends, but I knew a few. Jeff, with whom he grew up. Pat, the hippie-turned-lawyer who always sneaked me chocolate bars when he would visit. Dale and Mary, my godparents, with their nice home in Evanston, their books and banter and telescopes, and their children who became my playmates, their son remaining a friend of mine to this day. Ray the parole office and his wife, Irene, who took dancing lessons with my parents and became their closest friends.

He was one of the first to major in the new field of computer science, with a double major in mathematics. He couldn’t find work immediately out of school – not enough call for what we now know as IT professionals – but drove a taxi in Chicago, worked on the Metra line as a conductor. I found it funny, later; that a man who was so sedentary started off in such steady motion.

He was a mayfly with his hobbies, turning to them only long enough to get quite good; then moving on to something new. Dance, poetry, illustration, woodwork, tai chi. I still sleep in a four-poster bed he built.

He taught, after getting his Master’s. He preferred teaching people who had to fight to go to school – they listened, he said; where others took a passing grade for granted.

He was terrible to play games with. He had a competitive streak that didn’t seem to emerge unless we were playing, say, Candyland or Connect Four; and he’d grow irritable if a five-year old hit a lucky streak and came out ahead. When computer games became a reality, he shifted to them completely; where he could play against something rather than someone.

He read, and encouraged us to read. Heroic fantasy to philosophy. He wanted us to know that good could prevail in the world, and while he didn’t have a holy book to point us to, he knew mortal books and stories that claimed no divinity could do the same job with less baggage.

My family, early 1970s.


That was in the past. This is now.

My father did a lot for us. He did a lot for me.

Yes, I’m still sad that he died, still proud of the manner of his death, still angry – so incredibly angry – that he got sick.

But today should have been his birthday, and I’m so glad he lived while he did.

Night, dad.