9/11: Jim Hogan and My father’s shoes
September 11th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
My father died in April 2001 after a long fight with cancer. He had led a good life of personal and professional integrity, and the family grieved his passing intensely. Later that year, just 5 months after my father died, the attacks happened on 9/11.
The enormity of those events and their aftermath really defy description, but I had a particular response that was quite odd. Suddenly, I felt that the grief my family had experienced earlier that year had been way out of proportion to our loss. After all, we knew my father was ill, we knew he had little time left, we had time to say goodbye. Those who lost loved ones on 9/11 did not have that luxury, and they had to comes to terms with a level of hatred that had savaged their entire existence.
Fast forward to July of 2006. The Design Automation Conference was in San Francisco for the first time in many years. I live in the Bay Area, was able to commute from home to DAC on public transportation, and was able to enjoy walking each morning from the Caltrain station at 4th and King to Moscone Center at 3rd and Howard.
On one of the days at DAC, I was moderating a panel on the Pavilion Stage in the Exhibit Hall and arrived in the area during the last few minutes of the previous panel. Jim Hogan was just wrapping up at the podium, as he was the moderator. After he finished and people in the audience began milling around, I stepped up onto the stage to prepare my own materials at the podium. Jim and I exchanged pleasantries and then he happened to look down at my shoes. Now I’m not claiming to be a fashionista, particularly in that hard-bitten world of EDA conferences, but what Jim said at that moment really caught me by surprise.
“Are those your father’s shoes?” he asked, apparently appalled at the beautiful brutalism of my heavy-duty black leather waffle-stompers.
I’m not sure how long it took me to respond, but after a few seconds of shock and awe, I think I said something like, “Uh what? Let me see, Jim, when was the last time you walked from the train station to DAC, ran all around Moscone Center for 7 or 8 hours, and then walked back to the train station … in stilettos?”
Of course, Jim Hogan isn’t a monster. He backed off, chuckled, gathered up his things, went off to the next phase of his day and life, and probably never thought about the encounter again. Ever.
But I have. And not because of the extraordinary rudeness of his comment. I’ve thought about it, because I’ve thought about how all of us, and none of us, can ever really fill the shoes of our parents.
Of course, for many of us that’s a relief. Parents are never perfect, and some are a whole lot less perfect than others.
But for those of us who admired our parents, who grieved – perhaps too much – when they passed away, and who continue to miss their sense of humor and willingness to lend an ear when counsel is needed, the idea of filling the shoes of our parents is a complex one.
Was I wearing my father’s shoes when I was called out by Jim Hogan for not meeting his well-articulated concept of what the female of the species should be wearing on her feet on a stage at Moscone Center?
Well, not really. But then, perhaps I was. My father was a good man, a man of simple tastes, someone who had lost his father as a young boy, who survived the Depression and World War II, who endured polio, raised 5 children, and was married to my mother for 56 years. He was not perfect, but he was a very good man. If I was wearing my father’s shoes in July 2006, it was an honor.
And the funny thing is, Jim Hogan would have liked my father. My father had a sense of humor and although he could be offended, he had a very charitable spirit. He was a doctor, a professor, a man interested in everything and anything, and he wore sensible shoes.
But you know what else is funny? I never saw my father in a Hawaiian shirt at a congress of his professional colleagues. Nope, not ever.
It just goes to show that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; my father was no more of a fashionista than I am. And if he were here and heard me say that, he’d laugh and ask me if I was bragging or complaining.
Tags: 9/11, beautiful brutalism, DAC 2006, Jim Hogan, shoes