Dad grew up in Connecticut. His mother came from one of Connecticut’s wealthiest families. Their fortune came from Rogers Silver Company. His life started out, quite literally, with a silver spoon in the mouth. But, through unfortunate circumstances, all of their wealth was lost during the depression and Dad actually grew up quite poor. Fortunately, his mother had very strong social connections, he was given the opportunity to go to Hotchkiss, one of the best prep schools, and then on to Yale.
His father liked to tinker. Dad inherited that inclination which led to many different adventures in his life. He built his own radio. He developed the concept for the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar). He designed and built a house. He created endless designs for a cabin that was never built because the lot was sold before that could happen. He built his girls a 4-story playhouse which became a neighborhood favorite. He inherited his love for family history and spent many hours studying it and gathering information on the Barhydt family. He worked very hard these last few months gathering details we could share with other family members.
Dad liked to play. He loved his girls and had fun playing with them when the opportunities came up. One of our earliest memories is of him stuffing us in pillowcases and swinging us around. We could never get enough of that. He bought us roller skates for Christmas and was so excited about them that he pushed us across the hardwood floors in the living room. He taught us to ride our two-wheeler bikes. He would push us and promise to hold on. We would be riding along only to discover he had let go some time ago. He was just standing back there smiling at our progress. We liked to play family board games. We always knew when he was going to make a tricky play because he would stick his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and bite it.
Mom and Dad grew up with white Christmases and they wanted us to experience that too. So, many winters, we would pack up the presents into our enormous International Harvester and drive up to the mountains. On the way to the cabin we would buy a tree. When got there we would set up our tree, decorate it and arrange all the presents under it. Then we would go out and play in the snow. I can still remember seeing Dad on his knees holding onto the front curve of the toboggan, his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth, and my sister hanging on to the back of him for dear life as they whizzed by down the hill.
One of the neighborhood traditions became the Christmas piñata party at the Barhydt's. We had a large backyard that was painted like a tennis court and could be set up for tennis, volleyball, or badminton. The tall poles on either side made the perfect support to hang a piñata. Dad took great pleasure in setting up the perfect pulley system for jerking the piñata up and down. The kids would swing madly away at the piñata with blindfolds on while one of the neighborhood men would manipulate the piñata. Kate spent most of the time on the sidelines jumping up and down with excitement. And then the piñata would break, the candy would spray and spill all over the place. Kids would be running and squealing trying to gather up all the candy.
Kate and I were very blessed to have a father with a sailing itch. We sailed all the time. Weekend trips to Catalina and other nearby islands. Sometimes we were gone for 10 days sailing around the island staying overnight in the various coves and bays with our boating club, The Windjammers. What fun. What a thrill to sail along with the wind pushing us, the waves spraying over the cockpit, healing at a frightening angle. Or how pleasant to just glide through the calm waters and bake in the sun on top of the cabin. Even better was steering the boat with Dad. We would eat pretzels and he would have a beer with our ginger beer and we would chat about how fun it was. One day he wore a red sock and a green sock. He had another pair just like it back home. Perhaps it was Christmas. Dad’s sense of humor was very subtle.
We raced the boat that he co-designed and built. It was call Serena (Spanish for mermaid). As it was a one-of-a-kind boat we could only participate in handicap racing. It was a fun type of race as you never really knew exactly where you stood until all the results were tabulated and modified based on handicap ratings. Dad, of course, took a scientific approach to his racing. He wouldn’t necessarily take the course that everyone else took. One race, we skimmed along the shore as Dad figured out that the way the wind swooped along there we would be “sling-shotted” out by the point. He was right and we popped out way ahead of the rest of the fleet. He was always proud of that.
We had a tradition of telling jokes at the table during dinner. Knock-knock jokes. Dad always had the clever puny ones. He always told one in particular. “knock, knock; who’s there?; Tarzan.; Tarzan who? Stars and stripes forever!” We would always laugh like crazy even though we didn’t get it. Kate thought he meant Tarzan strides forever – so what if he could run forever, but we laughed anyway. We laughed more when we finally got the joke years later. And, Kate always had the same joke. She was young. It would go “knock-knock; who’s there; Pie; Pie-who?; Pie in your face!” Kate would then laugh hysterically, so the rest of us would laugh like crazy too, even though it wasn’t funny. It was only funny because she laughed so much.
Education was always important to Dad. He was raised that way and passed that along. There was never any question about whether we were going to college; only where. He saved for our college education; it was a priority for him to be able to put us through allowing us to attend full-time and not be encumbered with student loans. This was a gift he gave us that will last our lifetimes as we would not be the same people that we are now if we had not attended college.
Dad loved to hike and one time we were hiking in the Grand Canyon. We went all the way to the bottom. And that was lovely. But then we had to go back up at some point. Going uphill has always been hard for Anne. She tried really hard to keep up with everyone, but just couldn’t. Dad stayed back with and encouraged her on until she reached the top. We know he wanted to sprint ahead, but he kept Anne company anyway.
Following the beckoning sun
Along the unknown road.
What lies over the hill
Can only be discovered
By climbing to the top.
Shall we travel a little further
And explore the road beyond
He wrote this in his little book Word Impressions. It made me remember another day we were hiking and after a full day, everyone wanted to settle down and relax. Perhaps we were getting ready to prepare dinner, I can’t quite recall. Dad wanted to explore and he asked me to walk a little further. So we went around a corner following the trail a little way. Then we came to another turn and he said “let’s go a bit further” Well, I think everyone is waiting for us. “But don’t you want to see what is around the next bend?” OK, Dad, let’s go a bit further.
Dad was so proud when he became a grandfather. He had to wait so long that he thought he never would be. When he saw his first it was like he was seeing a treasure. He just wanted to hold her and feel her soft skin on his cheek. He always tried to do his best to make the visits he had with his grandchildren special. Trips to the water park – he even rode the tubes down the slides with them. Miniature golf. Amusement parks. But also educational opportunities such as the animal rescue ark outside of Reno and the May Museum in Reno. He remembered being a kid himself and wanted Brie and Will to be able to carry away special memories
In June 2007 when all of us, Kate, Brie, Will, Anne, Nick and I arrived at the house and Dad saw us all there, he said “This is almost like Heaven, except for one thing.” What is that Dad? “The only thing that is missing is chocolate chip cookies!” He followed that statement with a grin so big it crinkled his eyes almost shut. This was the funniest thing I have heard him say since the elephant fart vs. cocktail lounge joke he told us one evening the boat.
My son, Will, wrote about Dad for his back-to-school essay. It goes like this. I have a constant enemy in my life. It is called cancer. Cancer has taken away people I love in my life. It is cruel. It robbed me of my Grammy seven years ago. When she died it felt like a big gaping black hole in my stomach. Three years ago it stole my favorite Uncle away from me. He had taught me to throw boomerangs. He taught me about rocks. We made jokes together. He talked with me not at me. It was not fair. Now, my biggest enemy has taken my grandfather away from me. I saw him in June. We talked, we laughed, and I helped take care of him. I was supposed to see him again. We were supposed to laugh together again. Now I cannot. He is gone. I loved him. I will miss him.
We were so blessed to have him for our father. We shall miss him. He is with God and Jesus and his angels now. But we shall still miss him terribly.
This scripture makes me think of Dad. He ends most of his poetry with our oneness.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (niv)
It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up to into Him who is the Head, that is Christ. From him the whole, body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.