Notes on my Non-Dancing Parents

family picture

Me, my father, and my sister on his 90th birthday

My father died this week at 91 so naturally my thoughts are with my parents.  My mother died several years ago, and he’s the last of that generation in my family.  Neither of my parents were dancers, so I didn’t get it from them, but my father’s brother and my mother’s sister were.  And my father’s father loved to dance as well.


So that’s what I didn’t inherit from my parents.  I’m grateful, however, for what I did.  My father was a physicist who designed diodes for  Hewlett Packard back in the days when that was the dream company to work for.  He used to say his job was so much fun he could hardly believe anyone  would pay him to do it.  He got to travel all over the world showing companies how to use HP diodes in whatever the hell diodes were used in.


He was also respected for his down to earth honesty and dry sense of humor.  He never tried to sell his design to anyone who would be better served with something else, so people trusted him.  I have a similar way of being and I also got his sense of humor.


When I was a teenager I traveled to Europe and stopped off in NY to visit my mother’s parents.  They spoke spanish at the dinner table, and my aunt clearly understood, but when she spoke to them she used a kind of spanglish.  She used spanish verbs and conjugated them in English.  Turning to me, she said in English “Do you understand Spanish?”  Assuming she knew what she was doing, I replied with no intentional rudeness  “Well I do when half of it’s English.”


She smiled nervously and said “You’re just like your father.”  I don’t think it was a compliment, but I’ve always taken it as such whenever anyone compares us.


My sister and I both were lucky to inherit his youthful appearance.  He always looked about 20 years younger than his age, much to my mother’s irritation.  Bonnie and I take after him and when the three of us were together he enjoyed asking people to guess our ages.  Other than that, however, I got my mother’s body type.


Mother had the memory of an elephant until she lost it in her declining years, but Daddy was the original absent minded professor.  It was as if he cleared his mind of extraneous facts the moment they were no longer of use.  Every day of my school years, he knocked on my door and woke me by hollering “Up, up, and into the pool!”


Clearly it was a phrase he picked up somewhere and liked, so one day when I was meeting him for lunch at HP I asked him where the phrase came from.  “I don’t remember ever saying that.” he said.  Unfortunately, I got more than a little of that from him.


I told my mother once: “ I got Daddy’s memory and your thighs.  I wanted it the other way around.”

“I’m sorry, Laurie Ann.” she said, “but Bonnie Lou got Daddy’s thighs.” Well, she is two years older and got first choice, but I’ve never begrudged her because she also got his generous heart.


He was a die hard atheist who firmly believed that when you die; that’s all there is.  I, on the other hand, keep an open mind when it comes to the mysteries of the Universe.  I can only hope that right now he’s experiencing an extraordinarily pleasant surprise.


I realize this post doesn’t really have much to do with dance, but since I’ve been thinking about what to say at the memorial, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.  And unless my sister has unforeseen objections (and she frequently does see things that don’t occur to me at all) I may use most of it for that very purpose.


by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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