My father was a successful civil engineer, so he thought I was going to be a civil engineer, too. There lies a source of friction between dad and me. Although I admired his aptitude to design highways and bridges, I was a mathematical illiterate. Regardless of how much time he coached me with math homework, numbers just didn’t click. Halfway through my high school years, dad eventually surrendered to the fact that my interests were in the liberal arts and not mathematics.
Although dad had a lot of math and engineering smarts, he was an exception, rather than the rule, regarding intellectual pursuits. It’s not as if engineers are an unknown part of dad’s extended family. There are a couple of noteworthy mentions. One of his great-uncles was part of a design team for Disney’s “Pixar” studios. One of dad’s second cousins helped to develop VoIP (voice over internet protocol).
Meantime, dad was rightfully proud of his own work. He was a member of a small, close-knit staff of engineers that designed and oversaw the construction of Nebraska’s share of Interstate Highway 80. The major project linked the Iowa and Wyoming borders. This also included the spur Interstate 80 S (now Interstate 76) to Colorado. Dad was proud of the fact that Nebraska was the first state to compete its portion of the Interstate. So, if you ever drive across Nebraska on I-80 or on a two-lane road in far northeastern Nebraska, you’ll be traveling on one of “dad’s” roads.
When he wasn’t building highways and bridges, dad could often be found in the garage or his basement workshop repairing broken appliances or fabricating parts for the home or gadgets for the family. You might say that dad was a good provider.
Of course, dad’s career was just one aspect of the man. Dad’s work encompassed more than just his occupation. Yet, I’ll always associate dad with highways.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the author, James Baldwin. “If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons.”