Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day: Meet My Dad

My dad, Marc Latham. Photo by Frog Mom
Happy Father's Day! Meet my dad, one of my best supporters and a wonderful grand-father for my girls. According to my husband, he does A-OK for a father-in-law too. My dad visits us every year from France and every time he does, he's part of a few Frog Mom adventures working behind the scenes (much like my husband) so things run smoothly. I want to honor him today by telling you about him, one of my inspirations in life. Here's to Marc.

My dad (center) and my brother Jean (standing).
New Caledonia, Mont Dore. 1978?
My dad is an outdoorsy guy. He grew up in a French country town during the second World War and graduated as a soil scientist, a career that led him to roam trail-less mountains and deserts of Africa in the 1960s and the South Pacific in the 1970s.

In 2010 at Saddlebag Lake. Photo by Frog Mom
When I was a kid in New Caledonia, he was always back from an expedition or his way to a new one. See, he was charting islands for their soil content (literally, making maps where there were none) and needed to explore rugged territory to take soil samples and analyze them back in labs. Every time we go hiking, he tells us about soil and rock formations around us. My girls now know that when there's a question about botany, soils, rocks, gems or anything vaguely green or brown, my dad's the ultimate resource and they got that right.

My dad is a tireless hiker, backpacker and camper. He took me on my first backpacking trip with my brothers on the Dogny Plateau in New Caledonia when I was 8. On that tropical meadow before sunset, there was no firewood to be found and we were about to eat our canned dinner but needed a fire to warm it up. He taught us to look for "gas plants," pagoda-like green plants that burned really well in the fire. It was awesome!
My dad at Lake Assal, Ethiopia in 2004

My dad is an adventurer. His grand-father was a well-known French adventurer-writer considered by many of his generation like the last French pirate, Henry de Monfreid. In 2004, my dad traveled to Ethiopia to retrace his grand-father's footsteps and see the country where his mother grew up.

My mom and my dad in New Caledonia, 1972
To me, my dad was more like an Indiana Jones of the South Pacific, staying in huts with tribes of Papua New Guinea or getting ship-stranded on some small atoll of New Caledonia. The time his boat got stranded and they were fishing around the island to find food, my mom learned about the accident when a work colleague called home to say they'd found them. Seriously.

My dad can cook crepes, sausages, couscous and enough staples to host his friends in the south of France but the one thing he taught me in the kitchen and that's his thing (because my mom is such a good cook) is how to make jam. I don't know what he would do without his copper pot.

Cooking sausages at Tuolumne Meadows.
Photo by Frog Mom
He's a prolific jam maker and every year when I make batches of jam, I call him to let him know. Sometimes we even compare tips over the phone. His big fave is quince jelly. Mine is guava jelly. Just sayin'.

My dad is funny. He likes to tell jokes, no  matter how good or bad they are. Sometimes he's too funny if you ask my mom when he cracks a bathroom joke over lunch. She rolls her eyes, says something along the lines of now's-not-the-time and my dad stops - or not. The good news is, he always tries again!

With my husband in 2010. Photo by Frog Mom
My dad is a writer. When he was associate professor at the college of agriculture in Kyoto (Japan) a few years back, he sent us write-ups of his tribulations (he even tried to learn how to speak Japanese at age 60) and they delighted us. In the past five years, I've collaborated with him on a big project, the biography of his great-grand-father who was a French post-impressionist painter and Gauguin's best friend. Some 400 pages later, the biography's written and we're shopping for a publisher. Now I'd like to get him started on his memoirs.

Two laps. Not more. Cambodia, 2010
My dad is fair. I really mean it. He never badmouthes anybody, hates gossip and just tries his best to be fair to people in life. I rarely even hear him judge people based on what others say. He doesn't like judgments, he goes by empirical facts and conclusions. That's something I yet have to improve on.

My dad only swims two laps of every pool. He goes in, swims one lap, comes back and gets out. I never really understood why but that's how he does it.

Thailand, in 2010 with my girls and my dad
My dad snores. That's him snoring here. Kidding! That's not my dad snoring.

My dad does't like cities. He prefers the countryside. He gets bored when he cannot be outside. And he bores us because he's restless so we find a way to get him outside.

My dad doesn't like loud music. That's because he can't hear well. His eardrums were damaged in a car accident in his 30s and he's used to asking us to repeat what we just said. Even without that, I don't think he would like loud music.

Grandfather on duty. Photo by Frog Mom
My dad doesn't like sad stories. When I asked him for advice about a new travel blog I'm starting on California, he said "write about the California that makes people dream." I got that in my tagline "La Californie qui fait rĂªver."

My dad is an incredible grand-father. Ask my girls. They can't wait to see Bon Papa next week. Fortunately, he doesn't mind being bossed around by them.

Best dad ever. Wouldn't trade for anyone else.

Happy Father's Day Papa!


Pat Kahn's Childsplay said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful dad with us. He is obviously a gift to his family as well as to this world.

I hope that your biography of his great-grand-father finds a publisher soon. I'm but one of the many who would love to read that.


Frog Mom said...

Thank you Pat for your kind comment. I sure feel blessed that he's still in very good health and that we can enjoy him in our adventures. I'll find that publisher, promise.