My father, Richard Joseph Moran, was born on July 14, 1930. His family was,
in his own words, "shanty Irish" -- seven children and two parents living in
apartments through the height of the Great Depression. My father was the
second-oldest child and oldest boy and when he was six years old he was a
shoeshine boy in New York City, and walked home along the railroad tracks
looking for coal that had dropped off the trains, so that his family would
have something to burn in the furnace that night.
In 1975, when I was twelve years old, and my father 44, he had a heart
attack that nearly killed him, a massive attack that destroyed about 40% of
his heart muscle. Afterwards his heart beat "one-sided" -- that is, the
scarred portion of his heart was like a rigid wall, and the rest of the
heart beat against it.
I was told -- by my father, among others -- not to expect him to live much
longer. He weighed 300 pounds and had been a heavy drinker until his early
30s, a heavy smoker until a few years before his heart attack, and he was
living, essentially, on half a heart. He had a second heart attack only a
couple of years later; not as bad, or he wouldn't have survived it, but bad
enough. I wrote him off. He wrote himself off. My mother divorced him and in
1977 he moved into an apartment on Valley Boulevard, in Pomona, where he was
a probation officer. He was divorced, broke, living alone, and "dying" --
The year 2000 was science fiction. He knew he wasn't going to see it, and so
did everyone around him.
The years passed, and he persistently failed to die. He paid his child
support -- he never missed a check, ever. He was never late. He went from
being broke the year my oldest sister got married -- he paid for her wedding
and had almost nothing left afterwards -- to making a bundle in the stock
market. By the time he was in his 60s he was financially secure, verging on
wealthy. There were a variety of health scares, but by the early 1990s he
was still alive, and by God, looking good. He'd lost most of the excess
weight -- he was down around 230 -- and was lifting weights and swimming
every day. He joked about getting drunk (having never had a drink since
around 1968) and kicking my ass if he made it alive to January 1, 2000.
In early 1992 my youngest sister, Kathy, got pregnant. The father was out of
the picture almost immediately and Kathy made it plain she intended to have
the child and raise him/her. She was going to name him Kevin Daniel, if a
boy; or Chelsea Blue, if a girl. ("Sounds like a porn star's name," I said,
and Kathy was mad at me all day. Fortunately it turned out to be a boy,
Kevin Daniel, born on November 28, 1992; he came home from the hospital on
my birthday. (Sometime later I saw an ad in the newspaper for a porn star
named Chelsea Blue, doing a local appearance at a strip joint in the San
Fernando Valley. I've never mentioned this to my sister.))
My sister's pregnancy depressed my father pretty badly. He was born in 1930,
in a traditional Irish Catholic family; he's a bright and open-minded man,
but my sister's out-of-wedlock pregnancy caused him terrible distress. He
stopped exercising, got fat and started eating again ... and ballooned back
upward toward 300 pounds. He had another heart attack in 1993, and collapsed
on the floor of his apartment, unable to get up. 70 miles away, in Sherman
Oaks, my newphew Kevin rolled over for the first time without help; and
Kathy called my father to tell him. My father pulled the phone to the
ground, picked it up and said, "I'm sick."
The ambulance was there within minutes. The response time certainly saved
his life. They had him on drugs -- drugs that had not been available in
1975 -- that prevented his heart muscle from taking any further significant
damage. My sisters and Kevin and I got in the car and I drove 110 miles an
hour through afternoon traffic to the Pomona Valley hospital where he'd been
taken -- we got there and he'd been stabilized and was laying on a gurney in
the emergency room, with an IV stuck in him. We took turns sitting with him;
while he and I were sitting there together, me holding his hand, he said,
"Dan, you know I've always been proud of you." He thought he was dying, or I
doubt he'd have said that to me; he'd never said it before.
He didn't die, again. He went home to the apartment on Valley Boulevard, and
decided damn it, he had more money than he was ever going to run through --
time to get out of that Valley Blvd. apartment before he did die in it. He
moved into a very nice senior retirement home in Claremont Village, still in
the Pomona Valley. (I found out later that the place was for limited income
residents, and my Dad creatively portrayed his finances to get in; my Dad
never has stopped being a child of the Depression, regardless of his bank
In the summer of 1996, still terribly overweight, he had an attack of heart
pain and checked himself into the hospital. He ended up having a triple
bypass, and it was by far the best thing that had happened to him in the
last 20 years. He had a rough several months -- he lived with my sisters,
Jodi and Kathy, and my nephew Kevin, during this period, and my sisters did
an amazing job of caring for him -- and at the end of it, he moved back into
his own apartment -- and he'd lost almost 60 pounds. Over the next year or
so he lost another 40 pounds, and abruptly he was under 200 pounds for the
first time in my life.
For the first time he looked old to me. He'd always been _big_ -- bigger
than me, and I'm fair-sized. Abruptly he was smaller. But aside from being
officially "old" -- 66 and a hint of fragility about him that had never been
there before -- he was in better shape, honest to God, than he'd been since
before his first heart attack, in terms of his energy and general health.
On September 8, 1998, my son Richard Kevin Moran was born.
In the summer of 1999 I was working as the Senior DBA at Launch Media --
www.launch.com -- when I got a phone call from my sister Jodi. She sounded
very odd from the moment she started talking. "Dad got mugged."
"Oh my God. Oh, no. Is he OK?"
"These two teenagers jumped him coming out of the grocery store." Still,
that odd quaver in her voice. "And ... he KNOCKED OUT ONE OF THE SONS OF
BITCHES AND GOT THE OTHER ONE IN A HEADLOCK AND WHACKED HIM IN THE FACE
UNTIL THE POLICE CAME!"
And at least 200 people at Launch heard me yell "Wooohooo! My DADDY is BAD!"
That's not the entire story. My Dad told me later, "God, I'm pissed off at
those little shits. How dare they think I looked old enough to mug? Somebody
should have taught these kids to box, they jumped in and hit me in the face
half a dozen times before I even knew what was going on, but then I got
steadied and the big one came in close so I pulled back my right hand and
cold-cocked the little bastard. He went down cold and his buddy came in and
I got him in a headlock and hit him in the face a few times until he quieted
down. Then the first bastard started to stir, lying there on the ground, so
I stomped on his hand and broke some of his fingers, and then stood on his
hand until the police got there. Can you imagine the nerve of them?"
(A digression: I fired off an e-mail to the entire company, all 300 or so,
telling them the story of my Badass old Father ... and I got back an e-mail
almost immediately from some guy in the art department, wanting to know who
the hell I was and why I thought this would be of interest to him. I didn't
respond to it -- about an hour later, I got another e-mail from the same
guy: "I just got told you're that big scary bald guy downstairs. Look, don't
take that about your Dad personally. I didn't mean it." I showed the e-mail
to some of the guys I worked with and for the rest of the time I was at
Launch, people would say, "Go see the big scary bald guy with that
January 1, 2000, came and went. Y2K failed to destroy the world.
(A digression: The world's shortest Y2K accounting epic:
We can't pay!
By the time Y2K actually rolled around, I was fairly sure things were going
to be OK; I'd seen enough Y2K remediation programs up close to think we had
a pretty good shot at getting through it without difficulty. (There's been a
lot of talk about how the Y2K thing was all a big scare job designed to drum
up consultancy work. Some truth to that -- but the cold truth is, if there
hadn't been a LOT of Y2K remediation work leading up to January 1, things
would have been much worse.) In the 3-5 years prior to 2000, I'd spoken with
my father about my Y2K concerns, long before it had gotten to be a
mainstream story. His response was always, "Danny, the world will be fine.
When you were a little boy, you used to tell me that nuclear weapons were
going to destroy the human race, and I told you then everything was going to
be OK. Y2K isn't going to take down the power grid, or anything else. You'll
see." And I don't even today know if he was right for the right reasons ...
but he was right, and he's usually been right about such things, over the
course of my life.
Last month the retirement community my father lives in evicted him, exactly
as he'd been evicted from a dozen apartments growing up in New York City
during the Depression. This time it was because they'd audited the
residents, and my Dad too damned much money. They gave him less than a month
to get out. He waited almost two weeks before he called me and told me he
needed to move, and by then I was unable to find movers; by the time I
started calling I had less than ten days to go, and everybody was booked. I
ended up renting a Budget truck, and on Saturday July 15, 2000, I, my wife
Amy, and my son Richard, drove the 100 or so miles out to my father's
apartment, and with my sisters Jodi and Kathy, and my seven-year old
newphew, Kevin Daniel, we packed up my Dad and moved him to a retirement
community in Loma Linda, just down the street from the house he bought for
my sisters. It's by far the most expensive, and nicest, place he's lived in
since my parents got divorced in 1977. My father wasn't sure he liked it;
he'd give the place a try for six months, he said, since that was the length
of his lease -- and if he didn't like it, maybe he'd try someplace near the
beach. "No reason in the world I won't live to 90 or 100," he said without
any particular emphasis. "No reason to get stuck somewhere I don't like."
At one point in the afternoon, my wife and sisters were all out briefly, and
my father, Richard Joseph, and my newphew, Kevin Daniel, and my son, Richard
Kevin, were all sitting in the apartment together, eating pizza and drinking
coke. My dad said, "Dan, I want to thank you for taking care of this for
"It's a pleasure to be useful," I told him.
"Ah, that," he said. "But it's a greater pleasure to know you have people
you can depend on."