Thursday, October 13, 2011

5 years later: Remembering John Worra (1935-2006)

It took me some time to write this, because in many ways it's hard to figure out where to begin with a post like this.

It's been five years now since the passing of my father, John "Jack" Worra in the city of Tipton, Michigan on October 10, 2006. And in many ways I realize that it's also been five years since I first started this blog.

I'd started blogging as a way to get some thoughts out there while staying at our family home in Michigan and dad entered the last stages of his fight with cancer. A year later, my first full-length book appeared. Now, five years later, so much has changed.

What does someone remember about their father, over time? What are those essential memories?

I've written about it before: He was a pilot. If I talk about following your passion and understanding what your intrinsic being is, dad's was being a pilot and living and working among machines and tools. 

Dad was born in South Haven, Michigan. In 1953 he enlisted in the US Army, and by 1961 was working for Zantop Airlines just before they took over Coastal Airlines. He spent a lot of time with them, but almost a decade later he made a choice that changed the course of my life.

In 1971, he took a job flying in Southeast Asia for Royal Air Lao. This would last until 1973, when he would go back to work again for Zantop Airlines in the United States. I wish I was more of an aviation historian, sometimes, because there isn't much out there that I've found that really paints a whole picture of the airline.

But in January, 1973, he and his family adopt me, and I will come with them to the United States. There's a long complicated story to all of that, but that's for another day.

Towards the end of the 1980s he began flying for UPS and and would stay with them for almost a decade when retires from them in 1997.

There's a lot he taught me. Probably a lot of things he didn't get around to teaching me. Maybe he wasn't a perfect man but in the final summation he was a father, and he did his best.  I appreciate all of the memories his co-workers and friends have shared with me over the years since.

He came from a generation where you didn't really talk a lot about who you were, where you were going, how you felt about things. You were, and you got things done.

He didn't dwell too much on the past, but he also made certain to do what he could to help me over the years to find what I needed that would help me on my own journey to reconnecting with the Lao community and all of those who were a part of that journey in the 20th century.

Today, I'm just finally able to start reconnecting with the other Lao adoptees around the country. It hasn't been easy to locate many of them for any number of reasons, but now, we're just starting what looks like will be a very interesting conversation.

Dad would probably wonder what I'm doing, writing so much about all of this. But there were moments where he taught me that it IS important to remember and honor people's journeys and travels. Even if we don't always agree with them, we have to respect those paths, and help when we can.

So, here's to you, dad, and thanks. I'm glad we had the time we had.

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