David Wass, my father, was a great man, a lover of nature, actively involved in the community … no, stop. Stop, stop, stop.
It’s been more than a week since my father passed away … no. Stop again. Just stop.
When I contacted The Independent to see if they would run an In Memoriam for my father, the woman who responded told me that she had known my father well; that at every “do good” activity she had ever pursued in this community, my father was there: Farmers Market, where he ran a table for the Santa Barbara County Green Party; Sands in Isla Vista, where he would plant native grasses and teach others; Santa Barbara Channels, where he had his own TV show on politics, The Next Step.
Yeah. Now that’s more like it. That’s quite good!
But what can I say about my father—my own father—whom I loved? What can I possibly say, dear reader, to communicate to you what his life was, and what it meant to me? And what we are now missing in our community, because he has passed away? Four days of thinking have gone by, and I still have no idea what to say.
I could tell you about my father’s immense love of nature: The hikes we took together, his involvement in the Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, the Naples Coalition, how he worked as a volunteer for the snowy plover docent program at Coal Oil Point Reserve.
I could also tell you about his great love of politics: The books that filled his apartment, cataloging all the horrors of the Bush administration; his Channel 17 television program, admonishing the community not to just complain about the problems in our political system, but, also, to take action; his deep involvement with our county’s Green Party—and the depression that set in when he felt his efforts were in vain. My father attended Yale University, Northwestern, and Brooks Institute right here in Santa Barbara. Consistent readers of our area newspapers have come across his letters to the editor, written with all the eloquence and polish of the political writers whose works he constantly devoured.
But all of that is public record. These were incredible things that my father did—but I knew him beyond all of the community activities. Beyond and before.
My father was not a typical father who sat in an armchair and watched television. As you might imagine. When I was growing up in the Santa Ynez Valley, my father drove me to school each morning, a 20-minute drive. As my dad, unlike any other dad I knew, loved to collect books of American folk songs, we sang folk songs on the way to school every day. To this day, I can still sing all the words to all the verses of “My Darling Clementine.” I sang it to him when his body was shutting down and he could no longer speak.
My friends all remember the glorious “Bread Festivals” we would have when my mom was out of town. We’d eat only bread for dinner, toasted, with butter or jam—however we liked it—with strawberry Nesquik to drink, because I was allergic to chocolate.
They remember his laugh: the heartiest, loudest laugh around, other than the laughs of his three children, who take after him exactly. And my friends remember how he would shout “MARVELOUS!” when something made him laugh—which was quite often, indeed. I remember how my dad was never content to just watch me play in the pool as a child; no, my father was in the pool with me, swimming energetically, as involved a parent as I could ever have wanted.
And everyone knew how my father loved to take every facet of life, be it politics, relationships, art, or music, turn it on its side, and decide that that was a much better view than anything straight on.
Oh, and! Can’t forget the zingers! A few days before my dad passed away, the doctor came to visit him. My dad wasn’t doing well; he could no longer hold his eyes open and he hadn’t spoken to me in a while. When the doctor walked into the room, my dad opened his eyes, took one look at the doctor, and said: “At least I still have enemies.”
What I want out of writing this is to honor an amazing father, an amazing person. I want the community to know what is now gone, what we now lack, with his passing.
And most of all, I want this article to be a call to action for everyone, including myself: Get involved. My father was involved in so many activities I can’t even begin to name them all. He wanted young people involved; he knew there was no way anything could happen in politics in our community unless the younger generation took part.
Here, at the end of my father’s life, for all of his wonderful qualities, and for his bad ones too, I feel so lucky. I’m just so lucky.
David Podrasnik Wass is survived and deeply loved by two daughters, Gina Kimika Wass of Lahaina, Maui (who gave incredible care and attention to her father before he passed), and Marjorie Marie Wass of Santa Barbara; one son, Spencer Kuniki Wass of Lahaina, Maui; two grandsons, Darren Joseph Kunkiki Wass and Spencer David Wass of Santa Barbara; his eldest brother, Warren A. Wass, of Woodbridge, California; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, December 11, at 11 a.m., in the Kiwanis Meadows at Tucker’s Grove Park.