Gonia: Celebrating with the man on the moon

Viki Gonia
Viki Gonia

We recently marked the 45th anniversary of man stepping on the moon. Just a day after, my father passed one of those big milestone birthdays that are only exciting in that they are the beginning of a new decade of life. On the surface, these two things might appear to be unrelated. But they are not.

That’s because my dad worked on the lunar module, out of which Neil Armstrong exited to take his first steps on the moon.

Throughout my life, particularly when July 20 rolls around, I’ve heard the story of how my dad rustled me out of bed and sat me on his lap so we could peer at a tiny black-and-white television. I don’t actually remember this, of course, but if you hear a story enough times, it morphs into a memory, you know what I mean? I was three weeks old.

I’ve always thought of my dad’s job at Grumman working on the lunar module as being the greatest thing ever. My dad sent astronauts to the moon! And even when he has, in the past, tempered my enthusiasm by telling me that literally thousands of people worked on the machines that flew to space that day in 1969, and his job was just one of many, he was just a cog in the great space-race wheel, and concentrated on one very specific thing, I don’t care.

And while his part of space history is pretty darn cool, it’s really not the greatest thing he’s done in his (number redacted) years. I mean, he raised ME, for goodness sake. That’s a heck of an accomplishment. And my three brothers. And built upon a business my grandfather started in his garage in 1959 when my dad was just a teenager to create a successful company where we siblings all now work, and managed to guide us into being able to work together without killing each other. And now we’re on to the fourth generation!

My dad’s not really the philosophical type. But once, when we were down in Florida, where he and my mother had just finished building their little cottage-by-the-sea, I asked him “Did you ever, in all these years of working hard and sometimes struggling to keep things going through bad economies, and raising all of us, think that one day, you’d be sitting here in this place with this view?” gesturing towards the water and the house.

I’m not sure what I really expected him to say. Perhaps something about work being its own reward. But he turned to me with a puzzled look and said “Yes.”

I mean, duh.

Over the years, my dad has frequently reminded me that I’m just like him. For a long time, I struggled with that notion. What teenage girl wants to accept the fact that she’s built just like her dad? And, of course, when we’re young we’re prone to find every fault in our parents.

But I’ve come to realize that perhaps he’s meant it as a compliment. I mean, when someone who has accomplished much in life tells you you’re just like them, that’s a good thing. Thanks, Dad. Happy Birthday (a little belated).

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