My dad and adventure

Dad died too young.  At seventy.  Some people are old at seventy.  Dad wasn’t.  He was curious.  He thought of what he did, where he went, what he ate, etc., as a series of little adventures.  He pulled adventure out of the completely mundane.  He could spend three hours at an office supply store, marveling at the invention of it all.  He could spend the same time in a grocery store, speaking to clerks and stockers he’d met on earlier trips.  He would learn the life stories of other customers as he waited for service at Best Buy.

One afternoon a few years ago, we went to Best Buy to find a new digital camera.  We looked through the multitudinous lines and options, speaking with a blue-shirt Best Buy associate about lenses and durability and product profile and weight (Dad’s questions, not mine).  The associate helped a young couple as he helped Dad and me.  This couple seemed unsure, nervous.  Soon, Dad helped the couple, too.  Dad, from decades of purchasing Batman-like gadgetry and a long career in television production, knew cameras.  The couple needed a camera for a trip to China.  Dad had been to China.  He taught them a few useful words in Mandarin.  Soon he held a deeper conversation about infertility and adoption.  In China, the couple would adopt their first child. They were terrified, so excited.  Dad told them about hotels and taxis and how kids in China are terrified of and fascinated by blonde hair.   The couple found a camera.  Dad hugged them both.  I stood by, impatient and in awe.  Three hours later we left the store with a great camera my son, Leo, uses to make collages and short videos.

The rabbi at the funeral said that we are directed to greet strangers with our hearts open.  I have not.  I have not had a million tiny, wonderful adventures like my dad did.  Yesterday, at the airport, leaving Florida, I forced myself to ask questions and to smile.  I learned about a Delta employee’s gold ring, mounted with emeralds, his mother’s over-sized, jewel-giving love for him, and his upcoming trip to Rio, Brazil, where he grew up, which also happens to be where my dad grew up, in the 1950s, Belgium and the war behind him, listening to classical music, going on adventures with his best friend, Michael, running for (and winning) school office, doing theater in English (his third language), never sitting still, always saying hello.

We are directed to greet strangers.  It’s a mitzvah to do so.  I will, too.  And I will go on little adventures every day.

Dad, kneeling, with sister Yol, brother Denis, and rest of family in Rio, 1953

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3 Responses to “My dad and adventure”


  1. 1 Lizzie (Hennessy) Young October 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Geoff,
    My name is Lizzie Young (then Hennessy) and I went to Duluth East High School with your younger brother and attended the Acappella European Tour trip with your dad. I am so sorry for your loss. He was such an amazing man, and the words you write here show that he never changed a bit. He was always just as you describe him and my short time of knowing him was such a blessing. Sullen teenagers have a lot to learn and he offered so much! You honor him in a great way with this tribute.

  2. 3 Albert & Jacquie Russell November 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Geoffrey, we were close friends of your father 50 years ago. He and my husband were roommates in Boston in 1960. We were at his marriage to your mother, Donna Utzke, in Iowa. We saw you as a baby and again when you were under 6. You father is my daughter Barbara’s godfather. He was best man at our wedding. For reasons too complicated to describe here we lost touch with each other. Today, I resolved to find s email address for him. I wanted to reconnect before we got too old or one of us passed away. I searched and found a house address, then I goggled Herbach Lehigh Acres and up popped an article. I did not realize it was an obituary until I read the first sentence. I feel like the world had dropped out from under me.

    I read your tribute to your father and you painted such a perfect picture of him I felt as if I were in the same line as him eavesdropping on his conversation. He was a delightful person and the world is smaller without him.

    We are deeply, sincerely sorry you have lost your father.


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I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Stupid Fast

Nothing Special

I’m With Stupid

Fat Boy (Gabe Johnson Takes Over)

PowderKeg Stage

Herbach's favorite store

My Bizzle

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