Anyone who has read this blog for the past year knows that I found a box of my Dad’s old letters after he passed away and made them into a book called “Love Your Son Butch”. Those old letters were revealing about a man who served his country during a time of great fear – World War 2. His memory has been strong this week as stories about Hiroshima and Nagasaki have accompanied the anniversaries. Dad was one of millions of young men who were being staged for the eventual invasion of Japan and I have often thought about how different things would be if we had been forced to do so.
I was looking for some items for the upcoming submarine reunion I am working on and opened an old folder in my desk that hadn’t been touched for a while. Inside was one of my letters to him. I thought I would share it in hopes that maybe one of the people who comes behind me might gain something small from it.
The introduction to this letter is that I was nearing the end of one of the worst times in my life. The officer in charge of my group on the Hunley was a demon dressed in khakis and in a perfect world would never have been able to wreak such havoc on so many people (including me). But sometimes life deals you cards you don’t want and its not until much later that you find out that God had his own purpose.
This letter was written with the knowledge that the “monster” as I lovingly called him was close to being sent to his next assignment where justice finally caught up with him. We had sailed for Florida to celebrate the success our ship had contributed after Hurricane Andrew the previous year. My new boss was in place and it was only a matter of days until life returned to being a great experience. I remember writing the letter on the computer in my shop (something I was very proud of being able to do without any training – remember, it was 1993)
Now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
This was the last letter I ever wrote to my Dad.
The illness that was taking him away got worse and worse. On the day that the “monster” left the ship to fly to his new assignment we sailed out of Miami on the way home. The Captain called me to his stateroom after we sailed to let me know of his passing. On April 27th, 1993, John C. MacPherson went home. He had stayed just long enough to see me through the darkest days of my life.
The Hunley was decommissioned shortly after I retired. I am still in touch with many of the people I served with and consider them some of the best people I have ever known.
So how true was the prediction about my future?
Well, in some ways it didn’t end up exactly as I thought. I am a teacher in the sense that I thought I would be but I do teach people in the workplace. While my focus is on Lean Manufacturing and the supporting ideas around lean, I teach a kind of history. Everything I do with my lean thinking is based on the past works of men like Henry Ford and Taichi Ohno. Peoples lives are different because of what I do since completing my degree and gaining the experience I have. In the hundreds of classes I have taught, designed and shared with others, the companies I have worked for have gained efficiency and people have been able to improve their skills.
I guess you would say I not only teach history but in many ways I teach what the future could look like. All in all, I would say that keeping an open mind about your dreams can make them come true in ways you never imagined. What I learned from the guy who was my “monster” was that positive wins over negative every single time. It might take a while longer for the fruits to ripen but the rewards are far more long lasting than the results you get from bitterness and beatings.
Its been twenty years Dad. There are not many weeks that go by that I don’t think about you. I am really looking forward to seeing you again. I still miss our Saturday morning phone calls. Maybe we can do them face to face when we get the chance.
Your Son Bob