Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"We did it!"

A Sunday afternoon, the month after I'd graduated from high school. I was supposed to be heading out the door to go to afternoon service with Mary who was waiting for me, but no way was I going to leave. Not until I knew.

Years before very proudly Dad had come come home to tell us he'd been selected to work on a project Grumman was bidding on. He'd be working long hours and if Grumman won the contract, even longer ones.

When Grumman did win, Dad did his part. We, at home, did ours.

Sounds silly I'm sure, but my contribution to what happened so many years ago today was weeding, and picking bugs and worms off the vegetables in the little garden in back, and then drowning them in a coffee can with two inches of kerosene in it.

Every year Dad put a garden in but with the hours he was working, he couldn't take care of it. So I did.

Dad never brought things home but sometimes it would escape. Like when somebody carelessly dropped a wrench and it went through the paper-thin floor.

Weight problems. How the heck could they possibly make "The Craft" any lighter than they already had?

Except for the television, the total silence in my house -- especially my father -- that Friday night of the Apollo 1 fire: Grissom, White and Chaffee. Gone. I knew their names not just because of newspapers or television coverage but because of Dad. Like all of the Apollo astronauts, they'd been to Grumman many times walking the production line talking to the guys who were working on the LEM. Getting their input. Talking to them all like . . . normal people, people who knew their jobs just as well as they did their own.

Years later sitting in the kitchen on a cold linoleum floor Christmas Eve listening with complete wonder, feeling deeper chills, to the magnitude of Genesis spoken by astronauts circling the moon. Perhaps for the first time I understood my father's pride because his work on the LEM had helped to make it possible.

Air and Space Museum,
Washington, D.C.

July 20, 1969

Mom standing behind me, Dad sitting on the corner of the couch. Except for the television, everything was quiet. Through success or loss, like Dad we'd learned to discipline our emotions.

Until ...

"The Eagle has landed."

Mom totally lost it. I wasn't much better.


I'd never seen tears in my father's eyes before and it wasn't until Mom's funeral almost 20 years later that I ever saw them again.

Standing up, all he kept repeating was, "We did it!"


Anonymous billo said...

Cool. Thanks for telling that.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing.

It's always good to be reminded that "history" isn't just names and dates in a book, but the experiences and remembrances of real people.

10:11 AM  
Blogger pamibe said...

Thanks for making me cry...

11:54 AM  
Blogger Paula said...


2:19 PM  

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