My father is running for president. He announced this decision as I arrived for my regular visit. He was sitting in front of the television, watching the twenty-four hour news programs. "Not one candidate has any idea of how to solve problems," he said. And so, when the pundits suggested an additional candidate might still enter the race, my father stood, smoothed his trousers and announced: "I'll do it."
As a problem solver, there is no better candidate than my father. The head of an all girl household he was referee, judge, counselor and warden. And while he loved to declare his status as head of the herd, "This is not a democracy, this is a dictatorship!" he weighed positions and considered arguments. He was never unfair, never unclear.
As a young family we took our vacations in a station wagon with no air conditioning (or seat belts, for that matter). He installed a citizen's band radio under the car's dash and bantered in the lingo-rich chatter of truckers all along the New York State thruway. His handle was "The Delivery Man," a name that still makes me laugh. He was an obstetrician, you see.
He was a creative thinker: Tired of inaccurate weather predictions, he installed a home barometer to assess forecasts. He designed a vacuum-sealer machine so my mother could easily store meals for the many nights he missed dinner. He built a microwave oven, before anyone had every heard of a microwave oven, and heated his meals when he arrived home late at night or early in the morning.
As for credentials, my father's resume is full. He was a captain in the United States Air Force during the Korean war. He was a child of the depression and deeply feels the strife that our sagging economy inflicts. A young genius, he graduated high school, college and then medical school in half the years of his class, he was never an elitist. He challenged snobbish contemporaries. "It doesn't matter where you went to school," he said. "Only what you learned in school."
This is a man who believed in action. If something broke, he'd fix it himself. He did plumbing, wiring. We called him, Mr. Fix-it. "When you see a problem, you fix it." We heard that motto our whole lives.
He had a remarkable generosity of spirit. He stopped when he saw an accident, held open doors for strangers, drove other people's kids home from parties. When a neighbor called to say her daughter had fallen off her bike and "looked funny," my father insisted they come to our house even though we had just sat down to dinner. As my sisters and I picked at a tuna noodle casserole, he drove them all to the hospital in his own car. He valued the lives of others, even when it meant he had to sacrifice a bit of himself.
And so it is with no small appreciation that I acknowledge his intent to serve our country as president. We need a problem solver. We need a person with foresight and creativity. We need someone who acts. Someone who assesses a situation, analyzes, confers and reflects, and then delivers a solution. That is what a Delivery Man does: he delivers.
Sadly, though, my father has dementia and cannot do anything at all to help us. His mind is melting away, much as ice cream drips down the side of a cone. The fact that this man, who can no longer use the microwave oven to defrost a breakfast roll in his kitchen, who cannot find the TALK button on the telephone he installed on the wall in his own bedroom, who cannot change the channel on his universal television remote control (well, I can't do that sometimes either), that this man sees the need to act is an extraordinary fact indeed. And he is willing to take on the job. Only he can't. The Delivery Man is willing, but he is not able.
So here he sits, on the day of his announcement, trying to find all the red pieces in the jigsaw puzzle I set out on the table between us. There are only a dozen pieces to this puzzle yet he struggles to identify the few I requested he find. When the television news turns to the election, he looks up at the screen, alert.
We listen together and I nod to show my support. I tell him he is sure to get more than a few votes.
He'll certainly have mine.