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.

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