I’ve struggled with this post.
Not in putting the words into print, but in making the decision to even jot them down in this decidedly public forum.
Key points before continuing – another disclaimer if you will. Contained within you will not find anything about games, retail ownership or community building. Within you will find discussions on mortality, fate and facing our limitations as humans. This post is my catharsis – a selfish need to express my feelings in a trying time. I’m pulling the trump card – it’s my store; my website. I’m being selfish. Read on at your own risk.
My Father, Ralph Stein died September 30, 2011. He was 88 years old. My family witnessed the frailty of being a human progress to its inevitable conclusion over the last 9 months as my dad lost his love of life. His body finally succumbed to finality at about 2am on a Friday – the last day of September.
Eighty-eight years – that’s a long time in one body.
Born on July 29, 1293, Ralph was a depression era kid – an only child who grew up in New York City. Ralph witnessed his father working two jobs to make ends meet, while his mom would bring food down to the homeless people living in the street. He played sandlot baseball and listened to the Yankees on the radio. Although he never admitted it, I’m pretty sure he read comic books. When I imagine my dad growing up, all of my images are in black & white.
After the US became embroiled in World War II, Ralph was drafted into the Army – and served as a medic in the desert of the middle-east. Luckily he saw no combat first-hand, but had a few harrowing tales of wounded soldiers which he attended. He returned to NYC when the war was over and went back to college – taking advantage of the GI Bill. His graduate degree and work experience lead him (with his new wife – soon to be my mother) out here to Chicago where he was employed by Argonne National Laboratory until he retired in the mid eighties.
Ralph – divorced from my mom when I was but an infant – raised me from 4th grade past high-school; while continuing his renowned career at Argonne – specializing in nuclear reactor engineering.
Raising a kid single-handed is a stress point without a doubt; and he handled it like he handled almost everything I can remember him doing – calm, calculating and with just enough direction. I’m sure I frustrated the hell out of him time and time again, yet he allowed me to grow, to explore, to fail, and eventually to succeed.
While growing up with him I was introduced to the joy of gaming – those games involving boards and pieces. It was Ralph who brought me once a month up to a meeting of naval war gamers and let me stay up much later than is appropriate; it was Ralph who would routinely break out a war game and set it up for us to play – ignoring the “suggested ages” listed on the cover; it was Ralph who dragged me to numerous Gen Con gaming conventions; the first we attended being held in Lake Geneva – the “Gen” in Gen Con.
And it was Ralph who teetered me over that final decision point to open Fair Game. His financial investment was important, but much more so was his confidence in my abilities. Even in my forties – and a father myself – I found myself looking for acceptance from my dad.
I – as well as my wife and kids – will miss Ralph tremendously. His intelligence, love of life and love of his family are memories we will all cherish forever.
Goodbye Papa – you did good.