Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Father - Al Messina (1/1/1922-8/20/2008)

What can I say in 3 minutes of a man of whom I could easily write a book?

To many that knew him; my father was a renaissance man that also retained a great sense of humor. To many a teacher’s teacher.

To my mother he was the immovable rock on which she built a life that befits her stoic character. After he retired he made supporting her and her artist career the mission of his remaining years. His greatest wish was that he could outlast her by a day so to spare her today’s anguish.

To those that trusted him, he gave unflinching loyalty to the point of taking a bullet not by accident, but in a calculated gamble to pursue safety not for himself, but for the group. When I met his commander 55 years later, he could not stop telling me how I exist against all odds.

To me he was a father in the warm and loving sense we all have one, but as I grew into adulthood he became even more than a best friend. He became the only one on earth that understood my drive and sometimes quixotic goals; the one that shared my sense of being, in this new country, always a bit of a stranger in a strange land.

He backed me to the end on a hopeless business venture because he alone understood that honor demanded it and finances be damned. We both loved Shackleton’s story and understood that against the slimmest chance of success it is one’s duty never to give up.

He was my Chief Editor for all I wrote and tried to publish – Sorry for you he did not get to edit these thoughts for today.

He was my Software Testing Department whenever I needed a partner to test the countless programs that made my professional career possible – Let it now be known: that was my secret.

He was my Research Department – Every day on my way home from the office I could call and ask “Se ghe’, what’s new today” and I got the news summary, analysis of politics, global economics, capital markets, global warming, peak oil. I often wished our president had ½ that much insight available.

He was my library – I never left Bellevue without new books and often got them in the mail. English, Italian, French were all in he game; latin and greek he just quoted on occasion. Engineering, architecture, economics, computer systems, art history, painting, photography, movie making, writing, philosophy, physics, classical music, opera and jazz, his favorite. For him, the whole of this added up to the wonder of our reality and consciousness and character.

Who but me had his personal Mensa-scale Socratic philosopher to teach endless curiosity, logics, reasoning, dialectics, objectivism and the irony of life and yet always hunting for teaching accounts of human courage and survival in the service of a grander purpose.

I had it all and so grand it was. So grand is the void now that will never fill.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Al Messina (1/1/1922 - 8/20/2008)

Al was born 1-1-1922, moved from Italy to the USA in 1969 and retired in Bellevue in 1989. Wednesday August 20 he suddenly passed away with acute leukemia while surrounded by his family.
Family, friends and his airplane were his loves. He was a man with a wonderful mind, intelligent and inquisitive, generous and with a huge sense of humor; a polymath who lived to learn and understand and share his insights until his final moments.
A man who gave of himself beyond compare and lived to make a difference for all around him has now left friends and extended family around the world with a void that will be hard to fill.
His adored wife of 57 years, Pia, sons Marco (Darlene) and Andy (Valerie), grandchildren Alex, Sarah, Ali (Bill, Sadie, Mandy) and Ryan will try to go on without him.
A memorial service will be held Sunday August 24 at 2-5 pm at Kirkland Woman’s Club, 407 First Street, Kirkland 98083.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

National Michael Phelps Day

Since the start of the 2008 Olympics we've seen Phelps smiling, Phelps yelling, Phelps cheering, Phelps concentrated, Phelps sleeping, Phelps spitting, Phelps swimming, Phelps winning, Phelps awarded, Phelps whatever.

Congratulations Michael Phelps! It's a tremendous feat so far, and perhaps to become more so.

So here is a proposal: lets make a National Phelps Day - we all go swimming for a day and honor the hero. Along the way we may also give thought to what the networks seems to have forgotten:

1 We have dozens of other athletes competing, if not as successfully, at least with as much effort and determination. From that, we may remember that it's harder to continue to compete day in and day out when you are not at the top but while you struggle to get there, and don't make it, and try again.
2 There are hundreds of sports that once in four years we could admire and learn something about. Not football, not baseball, not basketball, not golf and even not tennis, but all those sports that promise no professional high paying careers to heir stars, those sports that participants pick just for the sake of competing, those that have no incentives to use drugs to win because winning unfairly would be no win at all.

Those are the sports that some of our children who did not make it into the high school popular sport team may have picked to learn about sportsmanship, about good manners in winning and losing, about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The sports that are still just sports.

There are more than the gold-medal-count obsessed networks are letting us see. Buying a monopoly on broadcasting obviously is a ticket to do what you please, yet I wonder if along with the power there isn't a moral responsibility. In this case a responsibility to: sportsmanship, to the values of fair play, struggle, persistence, graciousness in winning, graciousness in defeat.

Every four years, for so brief a moment, one someone somewhere has the opportunity to decide for us all what we'll see and understand and remember of hundreds of sports and competitors, either with a broad mind or a narrow provincial view. We'll just have to wait another four years for another chance.