Dreams of my father

Jun
14
2024
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
12
Comments

Whenever Father’s Day rolls around, it brings to mind one particular Father’s Day many years ago.

My father, Bob McTaggart, the bright youngest child of working-class Irish, was more an inventor than a straightforward engineer. At the end of the Second World War, he designed a revolutionary kind of heating system for all the new homes being built for returning vets.

In order to fund the start-up, he found two partners willing to invest. They would handle the sales and finance, while he would focus on the designs and shop floor. In a nod to the patriotic mood of the times, the three partners christened their new firm the ‘Federal Boiler Company.’

Dad’s business rapidly took off. He and my mother had moved from Yonkers and the Bronx to the pretty suburban town of Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Year after year, they enjoyed the fruits of increasing prosperity: a speedboat, a second car, a second home. By 1970, one partner had died, and dad’s remaining partner was growing ill. The company began to founder badly.

After the remaining partner died and my father took over, he discovered the reason: two sets of accounting books, the official one for my father, and another revealing the truth about the other two partners’ drawings.

Before the business got bought for a song, the hefty life insurance on Federal’s directors was still in place. The partner’s widow landed a million dollars, while my father, by then in his mid-fifties, had to find work among his company’s rivals.

When I returned home from college one summer, the second car and house were gone, and the house in Ridgewood he and my mother had built from scratch was up for sale.

Dad never stopped believing that he could do it all over again. On a trip to Florida, he saw another problem that needed a solution – the damage done to small pleasure boats continuously kept in the water. My parents moved to Florida, where my father set to work designing an ingenious boat lift that would scoop boats up and out of the water with just a push of a button.

During a particularly stifling summer’s day, while welding one of the prototypes, he fainted. The welding rod in his hand fell on his face, killing him instantly.

Unlike his old partner, he died without life insurance. The new policy he’d meant to sign that evening was sitting on his bedroom chest of drawers.

As it happened, Dad’s tragic death occurred the day after Father’s Day, when I was just 25.

For a number of years, Father’s Day inevitably brought back, if just for a few moments, a slide show of that day:  the shocked phone call at work; the rushing to stuff things in a suitcase; the taxi to catch the first flight down to Florida; the welcome distraction of funeral details that delayed the enormity of our loss.

But with time my memories settled on earlier days and thoughts: how extraordinary it was that this working class man, so old-fashioned in so many ways, proved to be such a feminist in the America of the 1960s, when women were largely expected to go to college only to get an M.R.S.  My mother, a trained nurse, had quit work when she married and didn’t work again full time until I was nearly off to college.

At a young age I decided to become a writer and journalist, and he never disabused me of that ambition, only once suggesting that it’d be a good idea to learn how to touch type – just in case (a useful tool, it turned out).

He allowed me to choose the universities of my choice, swallowed his misgivings about my moving to Manhattan after college and thankfully, lived to see me break my first big story that eventually resulted in my first book deal.

But more important than this enabling were the values he embodied that had so much influence on me:  the importance of integrity, even in the face of blatant dishonesty; of hard work; of helping others less fortunate than you; of fairness.

Even his death has framed me.

The entire trajectory of my family’s life was defined by unfairness– by ‘I win/you lose.’ My parents’ American dream had turned into an American nightmare.

It has left me with the zeal of the reformer, wanting to fix this mess, tear up the old rulebook, end the unfairness – wanting, in short, to heal the world.

You live on in me, Dad – as I try to write a happier ending.

 

 

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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12 comments on “Dreams of my father”

  1. That story allows me to grasp the impetus of your work, which I've found really valuable. You've indeed created a happier ending. Be assured of that.

  2. Yes, life is not fair. I wonder if Lynne’s father chose that role for this lifetime to launch her into her life’s work.

  3. Very moving words about life and how we all , somehow deal with the vagaries that we all encounter

  4. Very moving story. Lynne. It reminded me of my own father's, who was swindled by the sons of the partners with whom he had founded his Wall Street sugar brokerage firm in the 1920s. When Fidel Castro's take over of Cuba destroyed his main source of sugar and the company went bankrupt in the 60s and he was left without a private pension. Word of the debacle got to Tate & Lyle, one of his best customers, and they gave him a pension for life and kept it going for another year so that my stepmother would have some time to find other support. Your father sounds most remarkable, and we are lucky to have you, the reformer who has taught us so much about healing the world and ourselves.

  5. It highlights the context of the post-war housing boom and Bob's desire to create a heating system for new homes, making it relevant to the time period.

  6. Your work has been incredibly helpful to me, and now I understand why you did it thanks to that narrative. You have really made the finale more pleasant. I can guarantee you that.

  7. علاج اورام الكبد بالاشعة التداخلية

    علاج أورام الكبد بالأشعة التداخلية هو تقنية حديثة وغير جراحية تستهدف تدمير الأورام من خلال توجيه دقيق للأدوات الطبية باستخدام تقنيات التصوير مثل الأشعة المقطعية أو الموجات فوق الصوتية. يشمل هذا العلاج عدة أساليب، منها الترددات الحرارية (RFA)، التبريد (Cryoablation)، والعلاج الكيميائي عبر القسطرة (Chemoembolization). يتميز هذا النوع من العلاج بالدقة العالية، حيث يتم إدخال إبرة أو قسطرة عبر الجلد إلى الورم مباشرة، مما يقلل من الأضرار التي تلحق بالأنسجة السليمة المحيطة.

  8. The business quickly thrived, and Bob and his family moved from Yonkers and the Bronx to the picturesque suburb of Ridgewood, New Jersey. With the company's success, the family enjoyed increasing prosperity, acquiring luxuries such as a speedboat, a second car, and a second home.

  9. أسعار الأشعة التداخلية في مصر

    علاج دوالي الساقين يتضمن مجموعة من الخيارات التي تهدف إلى تخفيف الأعراض، تحسين المظهر، ومنع تطور الحالة. تبدأ العلاجات عادةً بأساليب غير جراحية مثل ارتداء الجوارب الضاغطة التي تساعد على تحسين تدفق الدم وتقليل التورم. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، يُنصح المرضى بتغيير نمط الحياة من خلال ممارسة التمارين الرياضية بانتظام، الحفاظ على وزن صحي، وتجنب الوقوف أو الجلوس لفترات طويلة.

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