Dementia is a dreary affair or topic in life, much less a blog.
My readers will appreciate that I have tried to dress it up by adding all kind of stories about nostalgic New York, travelogues on Kansas, Japan, the Bahamas, and Lithuania, multiple marriages, the America’s Cup, and business school write-ups of niche industries.
Kudzu-eating goats even pitched in to help me out on my last entry, THE FINEST ESCAPE, PART 2.
But dementia remains the overriding issue that I have tried to address in my writings; and I have sought to do so as humanely as possible. It afflicted my Father, after all. I make a point out of capitalizing the words “Father” and “Dad” out of respect for him personally, for the role he played in my life, and for the enormous personal success he achieved in life, surmounting so many challenges.
Few, very few people ever scale the heights my Father did.
Yet my Dad succumbed to a crippling illness over the course of many years. At the outset, I reiterate that I had neither special expertise nor basic knowledge of this affliction or of elder-care issues in general. Truthfully, I learned the hard way by surviving a family business, albeit with my insanity intact.
My ‘normal’ was my Dad’s successful international company, the standard by which I judged the world and work environments around me.
I guess solutions to problems make themselves known in the strangest and the most unexpected of circumstances. Like flying mouses.
Take my Dad, for example (or Please!). He had made his greatest escape from his under-privileged origins as a Merchant Marine. Sailor that he was, though, he was not able to elude the imprisonment of old age infirmities. In later life, as my prison warden, I, too, was obligated to escape. I had no choice in the matter but to throw the chair through the office window and climb out.
To put it simply, he was killing me!
The PANOPLY OF SWAGGER series charted both my Dad’s incremental decline and my concomitant exits from Olcott International. In the initial installment, I recounted how Dad started neglecting his beautiful business in the slightest of ways. By shorting one of his top salesmen of his commission. Maybe it was a one-off? Ultimately, it wasn’t. The same thing happened with others, like Bob Gerhardt, in the harshest of ways.
In the second, I regaled my readers with the beginnings of a horned parade of spurious investment ideas beating a path to my Dad’s doorstep. It all started innocuously enough. A table game with Huntington Hartford. Oil drilling in Kansas. But it didn’t stop there. It accelerated whereby Dad got churned for a million by a stockbroker. He had the good sense to sue for his money back. But when he prevailed in court, he turned around and reinvested with the very same advisor!
Tail chasing eats up valuable time.
In the third part, I tried in vain to get my Dad’s eye back on the eight ball. Instead, I was reduced to pleading in his kangaroo court, where the appellate judge was either the cleaning lady or my drug-addicted colleague. By hook or by crook, I did everything I could to draw his attention to where it should have been.
But it was no use. Ever have days like that?
Hopefully, neither one grabs the cash and runs!
This story is a continuation of THE TROUBLE WITH CHERRY.
Mike dropped the forged checks back into a folder. “We’ll confront Cherry later this morning,” he said to me softly, so no else could hear. “I’ll come get you.”
Shocked to learn of this episode of check forgery, I walked slowly back to my desk and tried to lose myself in the work of international renewals. As I wrote in my last story, I wasn’t sure why this discovery affected me so much. But it had. I could barely think of anything else. I pushed my papers around mindlessly and listlessly. Maybe I got off an order of renewals to Brazil or France when Mike popped his head downstairs, looked at me, and motioned with his head that it was showtime.
On the second floor, I joined Mike and my Dad. On the way over to Cherry’s office, Dad tapped Bob Gerhardt to join us. Seemed to me that Bob had been tipped off as well as to what was about to go down.
The memory I recounted in my post Assembly, Part 1, about my Dad putting together a pocket watch for me is not a particularly strong one. In fact, it’s like an alternative recall that really doesn’t come readily to mind. For one thing, there’s not that much action in it, and certainly nothing approaching anything like real drama. Just a quiet moment in a temporary home, years ago, in the distant past.
I didn’t ask for a gift that morning and I had no idea one was coming my way. Like a faint shadow on old paint, it’s there to remind you if your eye happens to fall on it while you’re thinking about or doing something else.
For me, I have similar experiences sometimes while listening to music during long drives in my car. I hear the music, but I am focused on the road and other traffic. One of those melodies can suddenly appear front and center in my consciousness days later, and I am left with some chord structure or arrangement in endless mental repetition. The bad ones we call earworms, annoying feedback loops of muzak that would be better eaten by birds.
Today I feature a guest essay by Ned McDonnell while I spend more time writing and editing. Enjoy along with my photo essay of the Chicago L!
My old friend and prep school chum, James Olcott, has honoured me by inviting me to remark on his engaging and insightful series of essays on the life of his extraordinary father, Bernard Olcott (1918-2006).
First and foremost, The Bernard Olcott Story is a cultural blog. The over-riding theme of these essays is the search for authenticity initiated by a son growing up under the long and often dark shadow cast by an extraordinarily successful, mid-twentieth century Horatio Alger type.
Bernard Olcott was not a public figure, but he amassed a significant fortune in his life-time by disrupting the sleepy global patent renewal industry in the can-do era of the 1960s. As Larry Ellison would do twenty years later in coding various operating functions, the elder Olcott computerized the seemingly mundane task of monitoring and renewing intellectual property protections around the world.
Last week, I discussed cataclysmic instances of a falling sky. Once every six billion years or so, you don’t want to be here (on Earth).
In the interest of full disclosure, there are other instances of falling sky which are not quite so universal, but just as terminal on a local basis. Consider a neighborhood volcano that explodes. Forget about ancient times like Mt. Vesuvius wiping out Pompeii in 79. That’s year 79, not 1979. How about the city of Plymouth, Montserrat in the West Indies (I used to renew trademark registrations here!)? Founded in the 18th century, it served as the capital of this British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean for over 200 years. Until it was wiped out by the Soufriere Hills volcano in 1997. Today Plymouth is a ghost town, population zero.
My favorite “sky is falling” incident is the one that occurred in Peekskill, New York on October 9, 1992. Earlier that week, a resident of that fair city, 18 year old Michelle Knapp scraped together $300 to buy her first car, a 12 year old used red Chevrolet Malibu. She must have been excited to drive her prize back home and park it proudly in her driveway.
Introducing Chevrolet’s 1980 Malibu.
The storied history of Olcott International has been covered in detail over the last year and a half.
As you may recall from my post “THE END OF AN ERA,” the company had its origins when the proposed merger between the British patent leader Marks & Clerk and Bernard Olcott & Associates fell apart in 1969. The partners of the former founded Computer Patent Annuities in St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands. My Dad founded Olcott International in Weehawken, New Jersey. So it was henceforth a battle of the Jerseys. Think Bayonne versus Bermuda. (Rodney Dangerfield once boasted of his summer house in the former).
Remember how I wrote that it was Dad’s idea that their proposed joint venture be based in the Channel Islands (to avoid Inland Revenue’s excessive tax rates in the late 1960s)? The aforementioned partners of Marks & Clerk relocated to picturesque St. Helier setting up shop there (to reduce their tax bite). One of the partners, Ray Chinnery, has a son my age, Martin who informed me that, thanks to my Father, he grew up in Jersey, not his native Birmingham (England, not Alabama). Rock fever notwithstanding, Martin still lives and works there!