Mom & DadToday was Father’s Day in the USA and that white-haired guy in the picture was my father. It’s the last picture I have of him, taken a few months before he died, ironically on my birthday. I was expecting a call, just not that call. That was in 1991. I had an InfoWorld column due that day and I wrote it, as I recall, about him. They indulged me.

We men spend our lives alternately emulating our fathers and rebelling against them, a process I was surprised to see lasts long after death. They give us their faces: certainly you can see a lot of him in me, though his face is mooshed a bit from landing a plane in the roof of a barn. I’ve so far avoided that fate.

The girl next to him is my mother, 66 in that photo and 89 today. She still lives in the same house and for 20 years drove the same car. They had a great love and I try to emulate that, too, but not rebel.

My father taught my mother how to cook. She was a southern girl who grew up thinking the kitchen was a room you passed through on the way to the back door. I suppose they more properly learned to cook together because his own cooking knowledge was mainly theoretical, gained primarily from a winter in World War II spent sharing a tent in China with another soldier who had been a sous chef at the New Yorker Hotel before the war. They spent three months talking only of food.

My father was a character. He was expelled from high school by a principal who was his aunt. So my having been fired three times by Steve Jobs should not have been a surprise. 

My father ran a labor union, one of the construction trades, and while he may have had enemies I never knew that when I was growing up because he treated everyone the same. His members loved him and he created for them many programs that survive today — health insurance, pensions, and training programs that simply didn’t exist before for what were essentially itinerant workers.

And at least once my father probably saved lives. Early in his career there was a time of unrest when criminals were trying to force their way into the construction industry. The local godfather, Mr. Minetti, had a Christmas party to which he invited all his friends and enemies. A highlight of this party — at least for Mr. Minetti — was when he’d challenge the room to a contest eating hot Italian peppers. A few would stand against him, eat a pepper or two and retire. But that year my father stood against Mr. Minetti and won. The symbolism was lost on nobody, the war stopped, and my father was MISTER Cringely from then on.

We stand for something in life or we don’t and my father did. I wish I was even more like him.