Monday, March 17, 2014

My first interview

Today was my first interview. I spoke to a man who last saw me in 1980. He remembered me as a tiny child with a short hair cut and “very big ears.” It amazes me that someone who clearly has a full schedule took the time to speak with a relative stranger about someone he knew over three decades ago. My thinking was it would be easier to do this one first as it was supposed to be about my father's professional life and with a stranger. I thought it would be easier than talking to the family. I thought.

Marshall Mintz was a young partner at Reavis and McGrath from the Los Angeles office. He worked closely with my father on the Data General antitrust case. The case was the longest of its kind and until I was about seven – older than I was by a year.

Marshall remembers Jack Lowe as welcoming and big-hearted. He had, “the ability to make you feel like you’re part of the family.” Our conversation focused on how Marshall spent most evenings with my parents in the house in Pacific Heights in San Francisco or at restaurants during the trial phase of this case.  

In 1980, my parents moved, "lock, stock and barrel,"to San Francisco for the trial phase. While there, my mother, a lawyer herself, was, according to Marshall, "office manager and office mom." He remembers my mother making him macaroni and cheese and steak for dinner.  He'd never had it before. She still makes this sometimes. The mac and cheese is Kraft, in the blue box.

Daddy was number two on the trial team. Number one was a lawyer named Steve Steinberg. Daddy was, “A better lawyer. He was better prepared, and had more trial experience.”  It seems that he ran the team without the title while keeping the lead attorney from causing too much trouble. His experience as a US Attorney made him an excellent trial attorney in the Federal Courts. There a lawyer interrogates a witness from a podium, limiting the theatrics. He was excellent at focusing the jury’s attention to the witness.

He also mentioned something I remember about my father. Daddy had a great sense of humor. I remember Daddy having a big laugh. He grinned often. Even with me, when I'd done something he considered amusing, he would laugh. I found it upsetting as I was usually taking myself rather seriously but he thought most things were really funny.

Marshall explained politely that it was easy to wind up my mother (it still is). Daddy would watch her go into a frenzy and just grin. Sometimes he’d wind her up just to see her start spinning. These were not his words but I saw some of it even as a child. Then again, I think she loved it, too.

The example Marshall gave is of Daddy being admonished by a judge for laughing at a funny looking witness named Ned – partly because what the man was saying on the stand was so preposterous and partly because Daddy though he was just so funny-looking.  Apparently it was the grinning that got him the admonishment. He'd love Ellie. When she gets going, she can laugh so hard, she can barely breathe.

Marshall and I ended the call with him reiterating, “The memory I carry with me the most is how warm he was. How he could instantly make someone who he little history or relationship with feel like part of his family.” 

It is at this point that I started to cry but held back my tears until after the call ended. Images of his laughing and smiling flooded through my mind. I remember his giving me the biggest, warmest hugs.

Marshall added, "When I heard he was in a coma, I was crushed. I was just, crushed. One, because of his age. And, two, because of...him."

After the call, I placed my head on my desk and sobbed. These aren't the kind of tears I've choked back, the silent ones that I can will back into my eyes. These are the blubbering, gasping kind. These are the ones that scare me because I can't control them. There is still this wish, this wish that I could just hear him laugh one time; at his granddaughter, at me, with me. I continue to sob, bewildered by this ache still capable of  swallowing me whole after almost thirty years. His absence is so present to me, even now. I once asked my mother, if it would stop hurting, and she, ever truthful, said, "No it changes, it stops feeling so new, but it never goes away." 

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