Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Parents

I've written about being a parent, a husband, and a son.

It's time to write a blog about my parents and their impact on my development, my day to day thinking, and my future.

I was born in Des Moines, Iowa to Dagmar Vanags and John E. Halamka, who were both 20 at the time (typical parenting age for Iowa in the 1950's and early 60's). They are approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. I've blogged about our family history going back to the 1800's. When I was 0-2 years old, we lived with my father's parents as my father finished college. He joined the Air Force and we moved to Colorado Springs, Levittown (Willingboro) New Jersey, and finally Southern California in the mid 1960's. He worked for Aerospace contractors such as CSC, Aerojet General, and TRW.

His engineering work meant that our apartment was filled with tools, various electronic/mechanical surplus, and a culture of inventiveness. On weekends, we went to surplus stores and we built things together including a working wooden model of Da Vinci's catapult, a minibike, and a metal detector.

My father arranged access to the TRW timesharing system via a 110 baud acoustic modem and we worked on FORTRAN, COBOL and BASIC programming. Thus, by 14 I had already spent hundreds of hours developing software (in 1976). As Malcolm Gladwell describes in Outliers, having this much computer science and engineering experience in the mid to late 1970's prepared me for success when the personal computer revolution occurred in the early 1980's.

My father became a patent attorney and when I wrote software, he patented the work itself and the business processes, such as my 1984 patent of the electronic greeting card.

In my adult life, he's provided legal advice, financial advice, and feedback on the various career threads I've pursued. His perspective from the eyes of an engineer/attorney is always welcome.

My mother has been a life long teacher/professor and attorney. She arranged for me to attend a community college physics course when I was in elementary school. She ensured there were books in the house and I learned to read at a very early age. There was no significant family time spent around the television (except watching the original airing of Star Trek from 1966-69). I went to Broadway plays by the time I was 4. I visited major national parks and monuments throughout the country by car by the time I was 6.

If my father brought me love of science/technology/engineering/math, then my mother brought me love of learning, writing and public speaking.

Throughout high school I entered every essay contest I could find and spoke at every speaking competition offered. The ability to think fast on my feet in front of an audience is my mother's skill.

In my adult life, she's provided legal advice, academic career advice, and parenting advice. Her perspective as a teacher, public speaker, and gregarious social person is always welcome.

Today, my parents are retired and have recently moved to a great one story house. They continue to stay in touch with friends, former students and colleagues. Over the next few years, I'm sure they will do volunteer work, cultural events, gardening, reading, and travel. We talk every week and they continue to stay involved with everything going on in our extended family.

I look forward to many more years of sharing our journeys together!


Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful story of your parents history and how they nutured you.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. So that's where you get it.

Anonymous said...

You are blessed.

Adam Gobin said...

This is a fantastic and very refreshing story about your parents! Thanks for sharing!

Robert Hurst said...

We are mainly who we are as a result of our parents and their upbringing. Thanks for sharing yours -- it is a warmer image replacing my suspicion that you were spawned from Atlantis. :)

Randall V. Wong, M.d. said...

What a kind way to say thank you.

To express your appreciation through this venue takes a bit of guts, but I am sure they are faithful readers.

Job well done, that is, to all of you.

Anonymous said...

John, I lost my parents within the last two years. Although they each lived to a ripe old age, it's still hard to believe they're gone.

Reading your piece about your parents reminded me of how much I miss them, and always will.