Happy 82st Birthday Dad
The man who is known to the larger world as The Master, from the 1966 cult classic film Manos: The Hands of Fate would be eighty one years old today. He was born on November 23, 1935.
He passed away on on November 12, 2016.
I wanted to honor him today by writing about him but struggled with how to do it. What to say. What to focus on. How do you sum up a person's life in a blog post? You can't possibly. Not for any life because life is complicated and when someone has lasted almost 81 years, there are a lot of experiences to account for. I finally decided to share a little of what he was to me. Not the hard stuff or the sad stuff. Just maybe a couple anecdote's to show you the Spirit his body housed and the Spirit that is now free. I want to share a little of who he was besides the guy in "The Worst Movie Ever Made"
Tom Neyman was my dad and I was his first born child. He adored me when I was small and I felt his love always, even in all the years we lost. In the end, we found our way back together and it was because of Manos The Hands of Fate. That's a whole other story and one you can learn in my book Growing Up With Manos The Hands Of Fate.
My birthday is on July 2nd and family lore says I was due on the 4th but the doctor induced labor early so he wouldn't miss his family BBQ and celebration of our country's Independence. BBQ is big in Texas so no one ever blamed him for that, but dad loved any reason to blow things up so for my 8th birthday he decided to write my name out in gun powder glued to a piece of plywood and light it on July 4th from our front porch so all of lower El Paso could see. It was such a sweet thought and although it fizzled out at every bend in the letter, he persevered nearly till the end. I wasn't disappointed.
After my parents divorced and he moved far away to Southern California, I knew I couldn't live without him so when he came to visit summer of 1972, I had my bags packed and could not be talked out of going back with him. I was going to be a Sophomore in high school and dad had no choice other than to become a single dad to a teenage girl. He was barely getting by in those days and we had to sleep in the back of the Datsun pickup on the trip and at one point he used his tools to somehow change the expiration date on a gas card so we could fill the tank in the Arizona desert in order to make it home. As stressful as it must have been, my memories are of driving across the desert at dusk in the un air conditioned cab of the Datsun truck and belting out show tunes at the top of our lungs from plays he had done and I had memorized from helping him run lines and attending so many performances at The Festival Theater where he had owned the stage for years.
The last time I saw my dad was a few days before I left for Chicago on to appear at the Music Box on November 11 for a screening of the Restoration of Manos. He was really happy for me and said if he were stronger and younger, he would love to go with me. I promised to take lots of pictures and bring lots of stories home. That day we were together, I was helping him at a community food bank. It happened every Friday and was the third time I had taken him in an effort to help him and his family in their tough times. We were going through the line choosing items he might want or need when we came to the end where the bread and pastries were. He was diabetic but had a ferocious sweet tooth and I saw his greatest weakness laid out before us. A big box of maple bars. I tried to distract him while reaching past it for a slightly more practical apple coffee cake. As I turned back with the coffee cake, he was already holding the box of maple bars in both arms and looking down upon it with a look of great hope and reverence. Without looking up, he whispered, "Can I have this?" He looked just like a sweet little boy with a new train set at a toy store. Without a beat, I laid down the box I held and said. "You can have whatever you want, dad."
That is a choice I will always cherish.