This is Ginger, a peppy, lively 1966 Ford Mustang.
Ginger was a present I bought myself in April 1992 for less than $7,000. A corn farmer in Minnesota had bought the car disassembled and completed a loving restoration, using the original color, navy blue metallic. He trailered the car from the Midwest to Weehawken and unloaded it in front of the office one Saturday morning.
She had a grippy 3 speed manual transmission and I drove her up and down Hackensack Plank Road with care. My Dad, who had a particular fondness for old cars himself (in his case, Mercedes Benzes), asked me if he could test drive it. Without hesitation, I jumped out of the car and watched him drive down the hill and back. He stepped out afterwards, and with a minimum of words, gave me his determination that Ginger was a solid car. That was his way of giving me an enthusiastic double thumbs’ up.
I actually used Ginger to drive to work for a week or two. She drew a lot of attention. Dave Murphy, my Dad’s handyman (and a loyal reader of this blog), loved Ginger and his brother ended up doing some work on her later that year. Dan or Yoshi, I forget who, hatched up a “For Sale” sign and placed it on Ginger’s windshield just to razz me. Truly, I worked with a bunch of comedians. Maybe some of my readers do, too.
As it turned out, she was a bit too fragile to use as a daily driver, so Ginger retired to the South Fork of eastern Long Island and became my beach car to sail along country roads.
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?
So after glory on trips away, say in London as described last week in my post “ODD THINGS ABOUT TRIPS,” what was life like back in the office in Weehawken?
The following story sums it up.
One day in January¹ 1995, my Dad and Olcott International CEO Bernard Olcott came down to the second floor, where I was working at the time and insisted to Steve², the lead computer programmer that a granted European Patent be placed in a list (actually, a test database) of payable items as an “EPO item.” Now, please bear with me on the details that follow; they are important.
The problem was, once a European patent is granted and “goes national,” it is no longer payable as an “EPO item” – it becomes payable at each national patent office, like UK, France, or Germany as a British, French, German item or patent. Only as a pending application in the European Patent Office is it payable as an “EPO item.”
Just the kind of distinction Dad loved to make. He prided himself immensely on his profound, perhaps photographic, recall of such details for patent renewals among countries. After all, he wrote the book on patent renewals!
In this case, though, he was oddly off. It was unusual, bordering on the weird.