Bridges in the Dark
Dad at his Alpenglow Observatory, Salt Lake City, August 2016
Last August I received a call from my 83-year-old mother. “Your father wants to speak with you,” she said. It is like that with Dad and me, not a lot of direct communication. I told Mom I would come over the next day after dinner. When the time came, I was surprised to see my wife, Kirsten, grab her purse and head for the door with me. My father has a reputation for being difficult and there are rarely volunteers to join me in seeing him. Dad is in his mid-eighties and as his oldest, I will be the executor of his will. I thought he might want to talk about some details or arrangements, but when we all sat down around the table together, he started talking about his observatory. I thought he was suggesting I coveted his belongings, which I surely do not. But in my own advancing years I may be gaining enough wisdom so that when Kirsten kicked me under the table I ceased my objections and turned to see her silently mouth, eyebrows raised, “This is an honor.”
Kirsten is right—of course it is an honor. For some 35 years now, my father has been creating a private astronomical observatory that approaches university research quality. It is his magnum opus. Today, however, he feels that using it has become too demanding, that his aging memory isn’t up to managing all the software demands and keeping the cameras, focusers, cooling systems, dome syncs, and filter wheels all operating as required any longer. Dad asked me to move it all to our property in Torrey, Utah, high on the Colorado Plateau in increasingly rare dark sky country.