As I sit in my hotel room in Seoul, Korea, I can’t help but think of my father thousands of miles away in Maryland. I would love to call him and wish him a happy Father’s Day, but I can’t. It isn’t because of the 13 hour time difference either. It is because he is in a nursing home recovering from a stroke.
It has been nearly 6 months since my father Reed Irvine suffered a massive stroke while eating dinner at home. In that time I have learned a lot about the debilitating effects of strokes and the dramatic change in the quality of life for my father.
Let me tell briefly tell you about my father. He was born on September 29, 1922 and was the youngest of 5 children born to William and Edna Irvine. He went to the University of Utah where in addition to studying economics he wrestled, earning him the nickname “Killer”. After college he was drafted and served in the Navy and Marine Corps. during WWII. He was sent to Japanese language school in Boulder, Colorado and using his newly learned language spent much of the war interrogating prisoners of war. After the war he helped in the relief effort in Nagasaki, Japan and met my mother. They were married on August 14, 1947.
My father then took my mother to Oxford, Englandafter he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. After his schooling was done he moved to Washington, D.C. and started working for the Federal Reserve as an economist. With his language skills he was able to travel top Japan and Korea often and met with officials of the Bank of Japan and Bank of Korea on behalf of the Fed. He worked at the Fed until 1977 when he retired to devote his attention to Accuracy In Media which he founded in 1969. From that point until the time of his stroke he worked tirelessly for the cause and led AIM to many successes including numerous on the air corrections by the major media.
As a father he was my idol. He believed strongly in character, honesty and integrity and lived his life with these virtues in mind. He taught me these principles and I have tried teaching them to my own children. He also showed great love and compassion when my mother broke her hip in November of 2003 by staying by her side day after day in the hospital for the time it took her to recover. His devotion was so great that he only returned to the office at my urging once he felt my mother was well enough to get around at home. Even then he wouldn’t spend a full day in the office. This was remarkable for a man that before his nearly fatal heart attack at the beginning of 2003 would frequently work 12-14 hour days and go to the office on weekends as well.
Now unfortunately things are very different. He spends most of his day in bed and sleeps a lot. He is fed mostly through a tube in his stomach, though he can eat small portions of baby food. Most disheartening to me is that I have noticed short term memory loss which isn’t unusual for stroke victims, but wasn’t apparent before.
I am grateful for friends and colleagues who have taken time to visit my father on a regular basis and keep encouraging him. I think it does make a difference. I am also grateful that he was lucky enough to have lived a very full life and make a contribution to society. He has surely left his mark. For those of you reading this I hope you have been as blessed as I have been to have a father like mine. May you honor your father as I will honor mine.