Homage to Brandy – the most amazing man I never knew

Happy Birthday
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
an addendum to the Grief Series

My father was born today . . .

Although he was a difficult man to know, and a very tough man to grow up with, I adored him every bit as much as I railed against many of his actions and decisions throughout my life.  And I never doubted for a minute that he loved me very much.

It’s just that he had such an unusual way of showing love – almost as if the most loving thing he believed he could do was to protect those he loved from the cares and responsibilities that he thought were his alone to bear.

And, to Brandy, life itself was a responsibility.  So his life seemed always cloaked in secrecy.

He made his world debut on November 20th, in Toledo, Ohio – over 90 years ago. He shuffled off his mortal coil in October, 2012, the third loss I was forced to find some way to deal with in that month.

  • Coming to closure has been a particularly difficult task – for a few reasons besides the grief that most of us experience after the death of our last remaining parent.
  • I’m still attempting to come to grips with the fact that
    I no longer have a shot at ever getting to know the man.

I believe I can now relate to the adoptee urge to locate their birth-parents.  We all seem to have an innate yearning to know our roots, and most of us want to know and understand our own personal histories.

  • My sister was into genealogy.
  • I would be more than content to know the truthful and even minimally fleshed-out stories of the members of my immediate family circle.

Since my father’s death, I’m coming to believe that I am nowhere close to fulfilling that desire.

Remembering what I know

“Brandy,” the man who died about a year ago as I write, was a retired military scientist. He may or may not have had undiagnosed, extremely high-functioning Asbergers.

He most certainly was a man who was incredibly gifted intellectually with, shall we say, less than top-notch intimacy and connection skills – even though he was otherwise one of the most universally competent individuals I’ve ever met, and fairly universally liked.

  • His Ph.D. project, under the advisorship of Albert Einstein and Edwin H. Land, was to develop a camera with a lens that had a shutter speed capable of photographing the first atomic bomb flash.
  • At least that’s how the story was told to me.
  • I was also told that somewhere among the photographs I have requested as one of the few things I wanted my brother to send me from my father’s “estate,” is a photo of me as a baby: that particular camera’s first human subject.

Amazing, right?

It was quite an outside-the-box feat of engineering to solve that concentrated flash-of-light problem, given what the intensity of the bomb flash was likely to do to any film stock possible with the technology of the time.

A sequence of rapidly rotating polarized lenses, anyone?

Those who are paying attention have probably also suspected that, even as a Ph.D. candidate, he must have held one of our country’s highest security clearances to know there was going to BE a “first atomic bomb flash.”

He did.

And everyone knew him as Brandy

His legal name was Millard Earl Griffith, by the way.  You really can’t blame him for deciding to keep the nickname given to him by one of the “regular” barmaids serving the libation rounds when he was in college, I believe, or shortly afterwards.

“You’re the scotch, you’re the gin, you’re the beer, and you’re the Brandy.”

BrandyDecanterSometime his friends jokingly used “the” as part of his name, but it was many years before I got up the nerve to ask him why.

That was his drink of choice back then – and has been mine for many years now.  Even though he was the one who gifted me with my cherished crystal brandy decanter, I can’t recall ever toasting each other over a snifter of brandy.

He also made a mean hot buttered rum – yet only once did he make them for the two of us to drink together.

In his later years he had moved on to bourbon – Old Crow – which had something to do with a group of WWII fighter pilots who still kept in touch, identifying themselves by that name.

Many of them went on to pioneer the space industry, as did my dad — and became card carrying members of The Old Crow Chapter of the Turtles
(and yes, “You bet your sweet ass I am” — get your minds out of the gutter!)

So now you know almost as much about his life as I do, and almost more about me than I know about him.

Please don’t misunderstand the place that alcohol played in Brandy’s life – or in mine.  Although it seems that my lineage is one of the white-Anglo-Saxon-Protestents who came over on the Mayflower, we’re really not of the five o’clock cocktail drinking WASP persuasion.  It’s simply one of the few things I know about him at all.

Military Secrets

He was never able to say much about what he did “at work.”  There were times when he wasn’t even able to say where that work took place – or that he might be away for a few days.  At least that was not something that was shared with the children – and we somehow knew better than to ask.

When my younger sister Jaye had to say what he did for a living, as part of a first or second grade exercise, she responded assertively, “He eats lunch.”

  • For many years, that’s pretty much all we ever really heard him say about what happened when he was at work – with whom he ate lunch (only sometimes) or what they consumed, most often.
  • That was one of the few things, I suppose, that was anything he could say.

In the years shortly before she died, my sister confided to me that when she was a very little girl she believed that he had to split his time between us and “his other family.”  We laughed about it at the time, but little would surprise me now, given some of the things I’ve learned since his death.

Some of it from books and a few magazines . . .

  • His picture is in one of the old Encyclopedia Britannica Year Books, along with a bit of information about the portion of the early space program in which he was involved.
  • I vaguely recall a story in Life or Look Magazine, including some posed photos of our entire family in the living room of the Satellite Beach house (usually a no-kid room, and a particularly odd photograph of my adolescent self).
  • There are also some old photographs of him, along with his name and rank at the time, on pages 159 and 165 in an article in the February, 1959 issue of The National Geographic: Reaching for the Moon.

The photographer for that feature was Luis Marden, another of my father’s friends I never got to know – although I do recall once visiting his home.  It had a take-your-breath-away Potomac River view, far below the level of the picture window from which it could be seen.

His wife spoke with an accent – French, if memory’s ear serves, and didn’t seem to care much for children (unless it was just me – I was eerily well-behaved, however). She had a  way of pronouncing  “Luis,” that leads me to wonder if maybe she was of Spanish or Portuguese parenting.  I believe it was impressed upon me that she had her Doctorate in something-or-other, but I have no memory of her field of expertise.

  • Somewhere I hope I will be able to locate footage from To Tell the Truth, an early television game-show, where all three of the contestants for the episode I seek claimed to be my father.  I believe I was nine, maybe ten at the time. I recall so little about it, I don’t even remember if the panelists picked him out as the real one. They didn’t have reruns then, so I must have seen it live.

There may also be some news footage around that same time, and at least one interview with one of the network Morning shows that originated in New York City – maybe Today?

I figure it must have been some kind of PR trip because he was allowed to take my mother.  They hired an older woman to stay with us for the week they were in New York, and I recall almost as much about her. Like I said, I was young, it was long ago, so little was shared with me to begin with, and I was raised not to ask questions about my father’s life.

  • Oh, there is also an entire chapter in No Film in my Camera, a fascinating book by a man who became Brandy’s friend, noted photographic journalist and war correspondent Bill Gibson (best known for production credits in later life) — and no longer alive, as I understand it.

Reading that book – especially that particular chapter – gave me a glimpse into some characteristics of my father’s I have never really seen, and that I see in myself. The apple never falls very far from the tree, I suppose.

QuestionMarkGuyCan you even imagine what it must feel like to read about things you never knew about your own father in publicly available materials – after he was gone and you would never have the chance to ask why not?

I suppose when there is little you are allowed to disclose, you develop the habit of disclosing very little – not exactly intimacy enhancing.

Regrets – more than a few

Too bad he was a *military* scientist – my sister Jaye and I might otherwise have been wealthy heiresses.  I didn’t even inherit a great pair of sunglasses with the Polaroid lenses he helped to develop.

She didn’t even inherit enough time on the earth to be around to fantasize about inherited riches. She was not one of Brandy’s brood fortunate enough to get his longevity genes.  Jaye and my mother Jackie – both Jacquelines – were granted slightly over five decades to explore this earth and the meaning of life upon it.

I’m missing both of them very much – and my middle brother Michael, who died shortly before his 30th birthday, as I run through this retrospective of Life with Father — not that we ever called him THAT!

My pet name for him was Daddy-do (rhymes with toe), never said aloud except in jest in my memory of myself – but something I apparently called him when I was learning to talk
(YOUNG and very EARLY — to the surprise of no one who knows me).

  • I have kept every single one of the few cards he ever sent to me — and they were all signed “Daddy-Do” — until “Deedle-Pop” replaced that moniker, at some point during my three year marriage while I was in grad school.
  • That’s a whole other story.  Until I am positive that there is nobody alive who might be hurt or offended by how the new nickname came about, you’ll never read about it from me.
  • In his later years, I referred to him as “my father” or “Brandy.”  “Hi Dad – it’s your oldest” was my phone greeting to him.

How bizarre it was when his hearing began to fade and he began to answer that greeting with, “WHO?”

“Madelmun” was his nickname for me – the salutation on those cards I saved.

My name is Madelyn – and that’s all

Apparently I developed my distaste for Madelyn nicknames as a very little girl, so I jettisoned “Maddy” at an unusually young age, so it seems.

There are only THREE people in the entire world allowed to call me Maddy, by the way:

  1. My father’s long-time best friend’s widow Rene (Pat) Ross
  2. My mother’s life-long best friend Beverly’s son, Butch Chickering
    (John to the rest of the entire world), a fellow military brat with a fairly famous father, in military circles, and
  3. A very close friend of mine, only when a coded message meaning something else is intended.

Others who take it upon themselves to call me Maddy get my version of the Evil Eye.
To NO ONE else will I ever grant that right – got it?!
(Some day I may tell you why “mgh” is okay, and how that came about).

I firmly asserted my preference for my “grown up name,” pronounced precisely in the manner that seemed right to the precocious little girl I was. Ma – del – mum!  I insisted.  Apparently everyone found it funny for it to have been allowed to have so long a life. Baby-talk of any sort was frowned upon in my father’s house.

We were “encouraged” to speak in grammatically correct sentences from the time we could talk.  I’m extremely grateful now, but have you any IDEA what it’s like for an exited little girl, over-eager to share something wonderful and amazing to be stopped, mid-sentence, at every single grammatical error?

My father didn’t even recognize the existence of the indirect object, for heavens sake.

  • At our dinner table, one did not request that someone “Pass me the salt.”
  • Even “Please, pass me the salt?” was a non-starter.
  • “Please pass the salt “ was the only phrase that halted the grammar lesson, unless one wanted to voice the “to me,” which to this day sounds unbearably awkward.

And heaven help the poor child who didn’t pass both the salt AND the pepper in response to that request.  Manners, doncha’ know.  V-e-r-y important.

I may have been the only six year old I knew who ate salad with a salad fork, placed daintily on her salad plate before picking up the dinner fork to turn her attention to her made from “scratch” with Velveeta macaroni and cheese.

VelveetaThat was a test.

All of you who are military brats are nodding in recognition.

  • Most of the rest of you are thinking to yourselves some version of, “Why not the Kraft boxed version?”
  • A sprinkling of you were raised to believe that anything but “real” cheese is the devil’s spawn.
  • And there may even be one or two who are saying, “Why on earth did they feed you macaroni and cheese for dinner!?”  YOU I want to meet! (I know my way around a fish-fork too.)

I can EVEN tell by some psychic vibration when it’s okay to eat your fried chicken with your fingers and when a knife and fork is mandatory to maintain your reputation as a civilized human being (‘though I don’t think I’ve ever hung with anyone who would put on the dog and serve fried chicken!)

Really!  Let’s make plans to meet for dinner – you pick the place. I’d LOVE to see what you eat now, and how YOU turned out.  Let’s swap war stories.

ANYWAY, I’m pretty sure my aging father needed the additional syllables that repeated versions of my name provided to identify the voice until he made it to the television (or remote, or whatever it was he did to quell the racket in the background) so we could conduct our telephone conversation at a civil volume.

In the beginning

I made my world debut at the Fort Ord military hospital, near Carmel, California, when my father was attending Russian language school. Remember, this was the time of the Cold War, when “the Russians” were the target of blame for everything right up to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.

secret-agent-manI never learned why the military thought it was important enough for my father to be able to speak Russian that they paid him to go to language school.  He played everything extremely close to the vest, as they say.

In many ways it was like growing up the daughter of some type of Secret Agent Man.  I’m still not certain whether or not he actually WAS an American spy – that’s how little I ever knew about the man I once called Daddy.

It’s ALL Relative

I didn’t learn until after Brandy’s death that I have quite a few living relatives from his side of the family, children and grandchildren of a brother I was never aware of either, and certainly never met.  I never met ANY of my father’s family.

Neither did my mother – with the exception of another brother, “Harley,” who suddenly appeared without notice on the front porch of the Satellite Beach house.   Even though I answered the door, I was immediately hustled outside. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

I believe my father was estranged from his family for many years, although I never learned why. I know he lost his mother when he was five and was sent to live elsewhere – either to his grandparents or to military school, depending on whose version of the story is accurate.

  • He did tell me, with embarrassed delight, that a young relative on his side of the family contacted him for an interview for a school research paper about my father’s Cape Canaveral years.
  • He did not tell me that he had corresponded with that young relative by mail – and that some of those contacts were posted from Europe!  I wasn’t even aware that he had been out of the country since WWII – nor have I any idea how (or why) the letters or postcards might have been sent from across the ocean.

Shortly after my father’s death, one of the cousins found me here on ADDandSoMuchMore and got in touch to see if perhaps I might be related to a “Brandy” Griffith, and whether I knew how he was.

Apparently he had been speaking regularly by phone to her mother, my father’s brother’s widow, who was disconcerted by the fact that she could no longer reach him.

Say what?!

My formerly unknown cousin, got in touch with me through an e-Me form – available from the menubar on every page of ADDandSoMuchMore.com.

God Bless the internet – but what a bizarre way hear from a family member for the very first time in your life.

Some Day, Maybe?

I’m hoping there will be more for me to learn about my father and his family at some point.  I would be thrilled to be invited to meet them, but I was raised to believe that it would be extremely rude to invite myself – and even worse to show up uninvited.

It was tough enough for me to get up the nerve to invite myself to my father’s house, merely “hinting” at a request for an invite after the time I was told in no uncertain terms that my request to visit would be inconvenient, since he’d just had a lengthy spate of company — following an emergency situation in my life, where he was aware that I really needed someplace to go.

“Inconvenient” ONLY makes sense in the context of an Asperger’s diagnosis — that he didn’t really GET the implications of my situation, potentially for the entire rest of my life, even though he was aware of the details. I can’t imagine any other reason for him to turn me away.

He was retired at that time, so it is HIGHLY unlikely that the government was holding a clandestine meeting of some Secret Agent Society that it would have been dangerous for me to know about or run into!

But still, it makes one overly-cautious about inviting oneself ANYWHERE.

Zdravstvuj (zdrah-stvooy – hello in Russian; informal)

Brandy and his life-long best friend, Miles [aka Mike] Ross, who was a NASA muckety-muck for some time, used to utter a few Russian-sounding phrases at each other, as the under the breath chuckling built to raucous delight.

I have done my best to reproduce the phrase they used most often for any Russian speaker I have encountered in the last thirty years, to no avail.

It remains their secret still.

It is my understanding that Brandy and Miles became close friends when they were both attending M.I.T., where my father got his Doctorate in Nuclear Engineering, I believe. I know he received earlier engineering degrees from Ohio State.  At least I think I know he did.

small_screwDespite the many accomplishments of both men, they became oddly well-known for involving a great many people in places you’d never imagine in an elaborate game of “pass the screw,” carried on between the two close friends for many years. The origin of the screw was never revealed to me.

The object seemed to be to come up with new and clever ways to get rid of the darned thing in a manner that, only when it was discovered, was it clear which one of them had it in his possession or where it was — when it was suddenly obvious who had been screwed.

I can still hear Milesy’s pained expletive, escaping loudly from under the kitchen sink of his Cocoa Beach home during a fairly large party where the disposal refused to work and was desperately needed.

As I recall, Rene was not thrilled with either man for that particular passing of the screw, but several of the party guests were highly amused, and my father was extremely pleased with himself.

I also know where the screw ended up.  It is somewhere in one of the studs in the walls that Brandy eventually covered with paneling, in the room that was once my mother’s sewing room in the Mantua Hills house in Fairfax, Virginia – Beltway Washington, D.C.

Apparently my do-it-yourself father overlooked it in his eagerness to finish this last room to be ready to sell the house in preparation for the next move.  The rush was unwarranted. Unlike the many frequent moves that came before it, that next move didn’t come until years after his Air Force retirement (even though he was technically “Army Air Corps” for his entire career).

If there was a retirement ceremony, we did not attend, nor did my parents express any desire to travel to Knoxville to attend my college graduation from the University of Tennessee, so I decided to skip that too.

I popped a beer (which I NEVER drink) from my college boyfriend’s ‘fridge and toasted the landmark in my life as he snoozed on in the next room, took a swig and dumped the rest down the kitchen sink.

Movin’ ON

I used to joke that we moved around so much to make sure that nobody ever got comfortable enough with their new friends to blow my father’s cover.

I was in High School when the yearly moves ceased, when my father served as Congressional Liaison – a sort of high-level lobbyist for the Air Force who conducted Congressional briefings (over lunch?) – I know the Watergate Bar was a gathering spot many times anyway, so my memory linkage to “Watergate” is slightly skewed from the norm as well.

Anyway, until I was in High School, I was the new kid practically every year, and sometimes twice a year.  By the time I was in the fourth grade, each teacher’s request to, “Tell the class about yourself, Madelyn,” had become practically a club act.  I had become a pro at figuring out what would make each new community of kids laugh with me instead of AT me.

Given my history, it’s a bloody miracle I developed any intimacy skills at all, isn’t it?

Forever Secret

I believe that much of whatever it was my father did is still classified. He took it with him to his grave, in any case.  Although I would love to know what he was doing in Albuquerque shortly after my birth, I can’t even speculate with certainty from our location.

The family once lived in Fairborn, Ohio, since my father was stationed at the military base called “Wright Pat” (for Wright Patterson Air Force Base). Years later I learned that, during that particular assignment, he traveled back and forth to his actual assignment – by car – to Oak Ridge, Tennessee for access to reactor time.

It was as a result of those trips that he acquired what would become his breaker-breaker handle:
The RumRunner.

Travels to Tennessee

Dry StateTennessee, at that time, was what they call a “dry” state, so the others — stationed variously to keep “the Russians” from figuring out the project by who was stationed where, I suppose — put in orders with my father.

Apparently it was a crew of some size. As Brandy filled his trunk with the alcohol that the others were unable to smuggle onto plane-flights or purchase locally, the back of his vehicle rode ever lower.

It was illegal to transport liquor over state-lines, so eventually he was pulled over and asked to open his trunk. “I’m sorry, Sir, I won’t be able to comply with that request,” was Brandy’s reply, “It’s Top Secret.”

A ride to the station and a phone call to a Commanding General later, my father was on his way, still riding low.

“By NO means are you to open that trunk.  It’s a matter of national security,” was supposedly what the General had to say, eager for the safe arrival of the case my father was bringing for him personally.

I recall the devilish grin on my father’s handsome face as he shared that little tale – a glimpse into the life of the Brandy I never met and would have enjoyed immensely.

You just don’t ask

It seemed I was forever waiting for the few times my father was so inclined to share a glimpse into the life he lived beyond my reach.

Although we were always encouraged to ask questions of an intellectual or scholarly nature, all of the Griffith kids learned by osmosis that you didn’t ask questions about your parents’ personal lives, you never speculated about your father’s occupation outside the immediate family, and you said nothing at all “in public.”

Those ideas were embossed on my young mind as the family rules, in any case. After being shut down a few times early in my life, I never questioned them again, and I never violated them.

This is the first public disclosure of any “depth” I’ve made.

He’s gone now, so he can’t get into any trouble for anything I might say or write – and I know so extremely little about the man who shepherded me through the first eighteen years of my life that I firmly believe the beans are in no danger of falling into an enemy cauldron because of anything I might disclose.

  • I know that, when he was still Captain Griffith, his was the face announcing to the newspaper-reading public that we would have a man on the moon within the next ten years. We did.
  • I know that Buzz Aldrin, the son of a family friend and the second man on the moon was groomed by his disappointed father to be the first.  And I know that my mother loved his mother’s name so much she passed it along to me.  Yet I can’t recall ever being introduced to either.
  • I know that one of my father’s projects, an early missile called the Thor Able, sent the first mouse into space
  • I know that Brandy came up with the mouse’s name, Wiki, in a quick-silver response to the question during a Press Conference, asked by a female reporter with that nickname.
  • I recall that it was not a particularly happy day when the Russian dog was launched before the American mouse made it off the pad, when it seemed that America might be losing the space race.
  • I also recall clearly, even though he claimed he quit for health reasons, that my father stopped smoking the Cuban cigars he used to relish right around the time that the Bay of Pigs Invasion made them nearly impossible to obtain, even illegally.

They were packaged in aluminum tubes lined with cedar, I believe it was.  I can still bring back the smell of those cigars mixed with the smell of whatever the thin wooden lining happened to be – and I recall that my siblings and I used to compete to be the first to ask to be allowed to have the empty container.

  • And I know that it was my father’s job to convince Congress of the importance of the MX Missile, during the time that my friends were dying in Viet Nam.

“If we are going to send troops into war, it is our responsibility to make sure they have access to anything that will allow them to win it quickly so they can come home.”

While I can’t say that I disagreed with his conclusion, it was about that time when I opted out of political discussions of any sort. He raised me to think for myself and to draw my own conclusions. I did and I do.

It was obvious from the time I was eighteen years old that uber-Republican Brandy and his Democrat daughter were never going to see eye-to-eye, and that neither of us would ever really be able to understand the political points of the other.

“Make sure you vote,” was about the extent of my response, when he attempted to force me to defend my candidates’ platforms, as I tried not to take the bait.

He sent me an unusually large check – a thousand dollars – following the first time EVER that I glanced off a statement of my disgust with what was going on in both parties.

Perhaps the timing was purely coincidental.  He claimed it was because he finally sold the canal-fronted Indian Harbour Beach “retirement” home that he designed himself, after mastering the reigning CAD software — several years after he moved into a land-locked in-law apartment at my brother Rick’s, where he lived until he died.

So that’s about all folks!

Imagine over sixty years of interaction with the man who raised you and knowing so very little about who he was beyond what could be surmised from his military background and conservative Republican leanings.

There are other incidents I could disclose, and a few additional facts gleaned from conversations with my father’s second wife Eva, whom he married after my mother’s death — but nothing compared to what my friends could tell you of the lives of one of their parents. It’s made for a long blog post today, but not nearly as long as one that most of you could write.

The thing that leaves me most perplexed is my father’s assertion that Eva’s desire to maintain a close relationship with her family was an indication of “an undetached umbilical cord.”

As I said when I began, he may or may not have had undiagnosed, extremely high-functioning Asbergers.

Happy Birthday, Daddy-do
I miss you more than you might believe or ever understand.

Love always and forever,

If anyone reading happens to know anyone who might be able to flesh out a few more details, please let me know in a comment below (be sure to fill out the email slot so I can reply directly), or contact me through the e-Me/Contact form available from the menubar at the top of every page, as did my formerly unknown cousin.

I will return your contacts with mine, and perhaps we can figure out a time to chat.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

18 Responses to Homage to Brandy – the most amazing man I never knew

  1. joanjager says:

    Thanks for sharing again. Always good to review our complicated relationships with family. Isn’t love strange?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Fathers Day Reblog | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. reocochran says:

    I hope my very long posted comment is going to show up in your blog awaiting approval area!!I spent half an hour writing it! Take it easy and thanks for sharing your Dad’s life. I wrote of a few overlapping parts since Dad worked for NASA and we moved a few crucial times in my life, too.
    Hugs, Robin xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. reocochran says:

    We have overlaps in Tennessee and government work. We were not on magazines nor was Dad a secret agent! 😉

    My Dad worked for NASA and left when Nixon administrationcut his budget. His graduation from U of Cincinnati was as a five year engineer, offered job to work in Cleveland, Ohio and trained to be on a special team to set up Oak Ridge (Tennessee) nueclear reactor.

    Mom and Dad met while he was a freshman in college but didn’t marry until he was up in Cleveland, she was from Middletown and he had grown up dirt poor in the inner city of Cincy. There is a whole story in his life and obit of how he started working in Covington, KY to help support his Mom at age 11, no child labor laws in KY and he swept out White Castle. One night, he was hitching a ride and a truckdriver took him to top of hill where U of C is and said, “Boy, if you want to stay in the ghetto and have a basic life just keep on doing what you are doing. There is a five year plan here, work-study and you should look into engineering.”

    My Mom was middle class and her Dad had been an engineer for Armco Steel. Anyway, she didn’t choose my Dad but dated a lot of ROTC men. Dad just showed up in clubs and places she belonged. “Like a pesty punk!” He fell in love with her when he saw her across an open area red hair dripping with no umbrella! 🙂

    *I was a baby in Tennessee. He had good friends who lived there.
    From there, the team went to Sandusky, Ohio to set up Plum Brook nuclear reactor. This is where John Glenn would use their anti-gravity room and other great available equipment. It is also included when the Hulk is enclosed in a big circular clear room during the recent Avengers movies (Marvel) are filmed.

    *Cleveland drew Dad back when I was in third grade and we moved beginning of 4th.
    We moved to the suburbs on the west side, North Olmsted, lived in a brand new built split level. My brothers and I were facing middle school half days and Mom worked at the high school in Westlake.

    We sold our house and I was going into eighth grade in a snobby Bay Village (Sam Shepard accused of murdering wife and The Fugitive was a show we all loved!)
    My Dad joined the Ancient Astronauts Society and met Von Daniken, Carl Sagan and many who were geniuses and authors. He wrote a book, Hot Lab and invented and got parents on games and a nice sofa bed with a cherry headboard. When you opened it up it looked like a real bed.

    His projects were on testing heat resistance and ironically, I have four typed research NASA projects with his name and team members on them. I have talked about my Dad working on the Mars project and also, somewhere there is a post about the little flag given him upon retirement framed in the Challenger project and his name, Robert E. Oldrieve. His picture is on the internet working with those mechanical hands at what was once called Lewis Research Center, now is called Glenn Research Center. I spoke at AAUW convention with John Glenn and his wife who he recognized my maiden name and I have me Dad’s initials to this day (reocochran at hotmail.com)

    [mgh inserted spaces in the email address to keep spambots from mining]

    That’s about enough about him! Mom and Dad retired in 1980 and became cottage owner on Lake Erie, Vermilion Ohio. Dad worked from there on painting, writing about ancient astronauts and he was an “X-filer” and submitted government reports for fees. He loved checking out UFO’s, writing up reports. We had years together his loving my three children, until Rich married someone with three children who we dearly love the cousins and my SIL.
    Love ya, Madelyn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • DARN – I forgot to hit “send” before I left 😦

      REAL quick, Robin – then I have to take Tink out. I quickly scanned this — will be back to read more carefully (prob’ly tomorrow).

      I’d bet money our fathers crossed paths – they knew the same people. They probably worked on some of the same projects (most likely one in Oak Ridge, breaker-breaker).

      He *had* to know my Dad’s best friend Miles Ross – or at least OF him – due to the NASA connection. (Miles might even have been your Dad’s boss.) People said that Dad & Miles were pretty much the Bobbsey Twins socially – if you saw one, the other was always somewhere close by.

      SMALL world!

      I may not get back ’til late tonite, btw — I almost lost track but suddenly remembered that tonight is Trivia Nite at Tink’s Cheers bar. I’m “the mascot” for Tink’s team (meaning I’m no help at all!). I’m not really much of a drinker anymore – I go for the company. AND to make sure I get away from the computer at least once a week. 🙂 Nice people I’ve met there.

      PS. We WON!!!


    • I got chills reading about that “angel” who motivated your father as a young hitch-hiker to move beyond the ghetto by going to college. Everything else you’ve written stems from that incident.

      And BOY am I jealous of how much you know about your dad. It’s such a sadness to realize that I will probably never know more than I do right now. I DO know that both my parents partied with the original astronauts at some kind of a missile program reunion held one December in conjunction with an important launch – and maybe before (Dad, anyway).

      Brandy didn’t seem to have an ounce of what he would have called “woo-woo” in him. He believed the odds were that we were certainly NOT alone in the universe. but he always pooh-poohed reports that we have been visited – end of story.

      I will forever wonder what he was doing when my mother and my infant self were living in Albuquerque – not that far from Area 54, given that we lived in Fairborn, Ohio when he worked at Oak Ridge. TN – and if *whatever* is the truth about that, combined with his Security Clearance, was the reason why he refused to discuss the idea beyond a *very* few words.

      Thanks so much for sharing.


      • reocochran says:

        I am finally reading your response and Miles Ross was a good name for you to remember. Someday, I will go check about the names of higher up Management in his places, Oak Ridge, Plum Brook and Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center).
        My Dad’s best friend in Tennessee was James Turley. They built a rock house up in the beautiful hills of Tennessee. He was a musician, had three boys and wife, Helen. His best friends at Lewis/Glenn Research Center were the Merutka’s and Lezberg’s.
        Your parents were more in the popular group while my Dad gravitated to families and non-golfing friends. Lol 🙂
        Thanks for all the time you spent reading and replying. 💕 ~ Robin

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Robert James Griffith says:

    Hello, Robert James Griffith here. Son of Warren and Florence Griffith. I first met Uncle Brandy in the mid 50,s when he came walking into our front yard on Sarasota Drive in Toledo Ohio. Stories of bombers, the CIA, NASA and alike remain a question mark. I did see the To Tell The Truth TV show. bs “lastname”1 at aol dot com Your cousin I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I cannot BELIEVE I missed this – and thank you SO much for your comment and contact info (which I will edit to keep the spam bots from driving you crazy). Look for an email from my [private] account.

      If you return it with a phone number and best times to call, we can meet by phone and swap biographies – and see if it makes sense to make plans to meet in person.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!


      • Robert Griffith says:

        Hello again, l am pretty sure my mom was the one your dad used to call. She would mention occasionally when she talked to him, usually was around dads birthday. My sister, Carol also corresponded with him when she was in high school. My mom just passed away. At her service I spoke to Richard Barton, our dads sister Thelma’s son. He has some stories about your dad.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I am so pleased to hear from you again, Robert – but saddened to hear of your mother’s (and my great aunt’s?) recent passing. It’s surreal, isn’t it? Knowing that we will never again speak with them on this earth?

          I guess those of us who were fortunate enough to be raised by our mothers – especially those of us who had good mothers – never lose the almost cellular memory of the time when our mothers were the only solid thing in our existence: she fed us, she comforted us, she changed our diapers and talked to us in a voice like no other. Every child goes through “separation anxiety” until he or she assimilates the idea that Mom will be back – she never really goes away for good. Until, of course, she does.

          It’s been several decades since the death of my own mother (I was in my 30s, still way too young to lose my mother — she was my champion). Even today, whenever something good happens, my first thought is always, “Oh I wish Mother were alive to share this with me.” When something lousy happens, my first thought is gratitude that she’s not. ALL these years later – but how much worse for them to pass from our thoughts when they pass on.

          It’s odd that I remember her as she looked when I was in high school and college. I wonder if that will be true for you, since you had many years with your mother when she was aging. (Brandy is in his 60s in my memories, when I had more contact with him than in his later years, even though he was almost 30 years older when he died).

          Carol is about my age, right? So I would have been in High School or college when he corresponded with her – and I never heard a word about it, and knew nothing of her existence. The only thing I know about Thelma is that I supposedly look like her – at least to Brandy.

          I hope that you and your family have a warm and happy Christmas despite your mom’s passing. If you feel up to it, I would love to speak with you by phone at the very least – and maybe we could meet in person sometime?

          I would also love to hear Richard’s stories. Can you put me in tough with him? (Were you aware that my father’s oldest son is named Richard?)

          Merry Christmas.

          PS. I just sent you an email with my current contacts, should you see this first.


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