Sunday, June 20, 2010

Remembrance for a son-in-law

My father and Thai shared a special bond. Able to spar intellectually and both loving active and outdoor activities, they became as close as a father and son, especially after Thai's dad died seven years ago. My father, Matthews Bradley, spoke of his 22 years getting to know Thai.

My main purpose in speaking is to tell you all a little bit about the love and times I shared with Thai for more than 20 years now. Before that though I want to express my appreciation and awe of you here who have given such extraordinary support and love to Katherine and the boys in their time of need. Your community and Thai’s colleagues are remarkable. Thank you.

I first met Thai in Los Angeles when he was in medical school and Katherine was in law school at UCLA. I was out in CA for a meeting of the AACR and stopped by to see Katherine. She wanted me to meet Thai and implied that this was a “serious relationship.” I instantly liked him, thought he was fun, funny, bright, inquisitive, a great conversationalist, and handsome. A keeper I thought, and said so to Katherine. She seemed pleased that we both took to each other. I know some people never seem to bond or even like their sons or daughters in law. That thought never occurred to me—I thought they were perfectly matched the first time I saw them together.

Then they both went to Seattle for the summer with Thai doing a rotation and Katherine interning at a law firm. I was in Seattle at another conference and we all went hiking with a colleague of mine from graduate school who was then a professor in the med school at UW. I remember Stan telling me: “I wish my future son-in-law was more like Thai.” That was the effect Thai had even on people who didn’t know him well.

The next time I met Thai was at Katherine’s law school graduation when Lynne and I both came to LA. I was pleased and proud that she had won so many honors at her school and equally as pleased that Thai was still very much a part of her life. Lynne and I remember Thai driving us around LA and showing us the sights in his Dad’s Mercedes. He had a pony tail then and looked very hip and LA and really knew the city. Katherine, Thai, Lynne, and I met Thai’s father and step-mom Pat at some cool LA restaurant I can’t remember the name of, but we had a great time with them.

I remember when Katherine was staying with us at the farm over Christmas and was wondering what to do about Thai who wasn’t sure he wanted to get married just then. Do men ever come clean? We encouraged her to tell him that marriage was what she wanted and to ask for a commitment from him. After this, Thai came into town for his residency interviews at Johns Hopkins and George Washington and stayed with us. During this time, Thai said he would like to invite Lynne and me to Blues Alley for a night on the town in appreciation for our hospitality. I told him we’d love to do it, but that he owed us nothing. He said no, no, he insisted on treating us. Fine. What a great fellow I thought. Little did I intuit that a second motivation was that he was going to ask me formally for Katherine’s hand in marriage. After he asked in the most sincere and heart-felt words and tones, I smiled, hugged him and said of course, yes, we will be delighted to have you in our family.

After Katherine accepted his proposal, Thai had started his internship and residency at Johns Hopkins and came to live with us in an au pair suite we had on our farm. We like to think we made his life a little easier while under the intense pressure of internship and residency. All he had to do was come home, eat what we left for him if he didn’t make dinner, flop into bed, and go around again. When he was off, we would have a great time going out in our boat, canoeing on the lake near us, or going into DC, or to restaurants or often, drinking some wine and staying up late talking into the night about science, medicine, politics, humanism, religion (and our discontents about it)—but, of course, that was before he was captured by fractals and the dismal science—economics.

Three months later, after she finished her clerkship, Katherine joined Thai to live with us and they both commuted in opposite directions, Katherine to DC and her law job at Wilmer, and Thai continuing his residency at Hopkins. Again Lynne and I loved having them live with us and were sorry when, after six months more, they moved to their own place in Bethesda. Of course, we understood why they did it and would have done the same ourselves, if we had been them.

All of us together next planned their wedding which we wanted to have at our farm with a horse drawn carriage and an open bar on the veranda facing the driveway as they drove up from the little Episcopal country church where they were married. It was a beautiful but hot August afternoon and night, and a great party, and I was sorry when it was over. We had relatives and friends of ours and theirs and Carol’s and Ed’s coming from far and wide. The next day we took the wedding party to the Chesapeake for a fast tour of St. Michaels in our boat.

After their marriage, they both worked at their careers. I was proud of them and how hard they worked and had formed a solid union that gave all of us a great deal of pleasure just watching. Thai and Katherine paid us back very quickly the down payment we had lent them to buy their house. Thai was quite proud of that and so was I.

What seems very soon after that: Nicholas came along and then Luke and Kyle and then James. Lynne became pregnant and we added Claire to our family only nine months before James, so, a true multi-generational family.

I remember that Nick was fascinated by big machines and knew the names of more of them than I did by the time he was three. I remember taking him and then Luke, Kyle, and James for rides on the big farm tractor we had with Thai cheering them on. We put each of the boys on a horse with Thai holding the boys and me leading the horse. Katherine didn’t always know or approve if she saw us.

I always looked forward to knowing that Thai would be coming to our family gatherings. Often, and somewhat to Katherine’s chagrin, Thai and I would grab some wine and spend hours talking about medicine or politics or lately economics and fractals and Niall Ferguson or Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. He was always curious about my biotech ventures and would ask one incisive question after another. One trip I’ll never forget happened after Thais’ father Denis died and I had just bought a boat in Florida that I needed help bringing up the waterway. Thai volunteered to accompany me and we together piloted it up the Intracoastal and offshore. Out in the Atlantic we saw dolphins, sharks, and a whale. We had a blast getting to know each other even more and continuing our endless conversations. It was special for both of us.
There’s a lot more I could say, but those are the early highlights

In summary: I don’t have enough positive adjectives, verbs, or nouns to express what I feel about my son-in–law. Among the ones that stand out:

Brilliant—yes, one of the brightest men I ever knew

Moral: yes, he had an inherent sense of what was right and wrong

Humanist: yes, he loved all mankind with all our warts and flowers, and worked to make everyone better.

Intense and focused: yes, and these are qualities that gets things done and that make the world a better place.

Scientist: yes, one who knew how to ask the incisive question and then figure a way to answer it.

And then his family values: love and respect for all of us—I never heard him say anything unkind about anyone,

I will miss him more that I can say.

Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for fleshing out Thai so much for me here.
    I'm a blogger friend, as you know, so although I knew Thai, it was from within that small realm of bloggdom, shall we say.
    Maybe you will be interested to learn that even with such dematerialized contact with Thai, I still miss him very much, and that although we never physically met.
    Somebody said here how UNIQUE he was, and that I feel is definitely true.
    One of the best, and the most important things about Thai, to me, is that he had really gone so far in life towards becoming that UNIQUE person he was, and which makes him so very irreplaceable for everybody.
    That is really amazing and outstanding in a world in which we look, think and act more and more alike, you know.
    And reading about his community service, his curiosity, his love of the outdoors, well... that once again brought back images of my dad who died so unexpectedly, and so young, from the same cause.
    Many people around me are rather amazed that I could become so... ATTACHED to someone who was so far away, somebody who I never saw.
    Lots of people have a hidden idea that the Internet is bad, or artificial, you know.
    But the blogs let me know Thai, and I wouldn't have met him any other way. We were geographically a long ways away...
    Thanks again for sharing all this about Thai, and I wish the best for all his family, friends, and colleagues.
    Some 28 years on... my dad is still with me. I think about him from time to time. Not every day, certainly. But, as the years keep passing, I keep on discovering how much he is STILL alive through and in me, and how much my life owes to what HE contributed to it.
    From everything everyone has said here, I'm sure that Thai will remain a living presence in us as the years go on.
    Take care, all. Debbie