The hospital where I worked part time was converting to electronic records. I dreaded the conversion. I understood the merits of electronic medical records. I had more trouble understanding the technology.
I got into being a social worker, partly because I was lousy at things electronic. This was not my father’s fault. Leslie J. Shaw got his start being fascinated by electronics when the US Army trained him in radar repair.
The radar of his concern was radar devoted to the aiming of anti-aircraft guns. His skills could have come in handy on December 7, 1941. As my father told it, he was enjoying a sunny Sunday morning on a hillside overlooking Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when he noticed an usually large number of aircraft headed his way. As they got closer he began to realize they were something he should be working on shooting down.
Problem was the ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns was stored in sealed metal drums some distance from the guns. The US Military bases in Hawaii had not been expecting company. He and his battalion had nothing they could do, but watch.
This was not the case years later, when my Father fought his way through the jungles of Okinawa to set up shop. His unit set a record for shooting down the most enemy aircraft in a 24-hour period in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. This was due to improvements in radar tracking, linked to automatic gun sighting, that could estimate where an enemy plane, once spotted, was going to be. My father was there to repair one of the earliest forms of computer technology. A technology which helped win the war.
Men throughout history have relied on bravery to win battles, yes, but it mainly has been the better technology that has carried the day. Copper swords could make short work of brave wooden club wavers. Bronze helmets beat the rock throwers most of the time.
It was the Civil War in the United States, that demonstrated the value of rifling in gun barrels to reduce bullet spin for greatly enhanced accuracy.
Now, the bravest of brave men, leading the charge were much more likely to be the first to bite the dust.
My father told me that after the battle for Okinawa was won, he had witnessed a strange glow in the Western sky. He said he had no idea what it was at the time. Later he heard about Hiroshima.
The atom bomb ended the need for further service from my father. There would be no military invasion of Japan.
My father could have gone on to use his training in electronics to do quite well for himself, contributing to what President Eisenhower would label the military industrial complex. He chose a different path.
My father went on to develop an interest in institutional food service. He went on to help homesick college students forget about home cooked meals for a while, by developing ways to prepare and present cuisine on a budget.
He never gave up his interest in electronics. He was a devote hobbyist. He built radio transmitters and receivers from scratch, bending scrap sheet metal to house the forests of vacuum tubes and capacitors. He got very interested in HAM amateur radio broadcasting.
He tried to teach me Ohm’s Law on the nature of resistance in electronic circuits. He pointed out each electronic gizmo and gadget and explained their purpose. He tried to teach me Morse code. I didn’t care for any of it. I was more into hunting for fossils and interesting rocks.
My father was offering me the future. I was interested in the Stone Age.
As I grew and technology progressed, my father told me about a great advance in HAM amateur radio transmission called “repeaters.” These “repeaters” were antennas that bounced radio signals off of each other, greatly extending the range of men my father could communicate with from our basement.
Today, we call these things cell phone towers.
He built himself a “man cave” to house his radio transmissions and receptions. He paid me to dig the hole for the concrete foundation for his antenna. My museum of rocks and minerals was right next to his “radio shack” in the basement. He would come out to admire my collection. I remained uninterested in his.
When I, as an adult, heard about his excitement in obtaining a Commodore 64 computer, I was too busy raising young kids to care very much. I did tell him, “So, you got one of those computers. That’s nice, Dad.”
Lucky for me, my kids grew up to be able to teach me what my father wanted to. I miss them not living with me anymore. I live in fear of my computer freezing up and crashing without them being here for me.
When I finally had to go to the electronic hospital record training, I was forced to face my technophobia head on. The training was conducted in a large room filled with computers. A women in the front of the room provided guidance on what to click on, what to scroll to and where to enter what needed to be entered.
I was repeatedly lost. Hospital workers are known for their dedication showing up, even when not feeling their best. As I sat at the keyboard I was not at my best. My ears were stuffed up from a lingering head cold. I had difficulty hearing. There was a nurse assigned to float through out the room, to look over the shoulder and assist anyone who was struggling with the instruction coming from the front of the room. Thank goodness, she showed up even though she had a bad case of laryngitis.
The people who kept urgently signaling her for help was mainly me. She would strain her voice, to provide me guidance. I kept responding with, “What dd you say?”
With some exceptions, nurses are known for being slow to get angry. Such was the case with the nurse trying to help me. I, trained as a social worker, am supposed to be good at exhibiting accurate empathy. But this time, I gave up on her before she threw something at me. I also gave up working in the hospital.
I am proud to say that I am typing this on a computer and know how to submit it electronically to goodmenproject.com for consideration. My father used his aptitude for electronics, not to get rich helping to design smarter bombs, but to help himself reach out and communicate with other men from his basement.
With this article, I am reaching out to any man, who as they got older, had trouble keeping up with the tools of their trade, to not feel so defeated by it. To be able to laugh about it. To be able to contemplate how that door closing opened another one. I like to think my father would be proud of me.
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