Finding Uncle Dan

In 2018, with all the technology and communication available, people can still slip off the radar. There seems to be this insistence that everyone is online; everyone has a smartphone. Of course, that’s overly simplistic. It ignores the digital divide and people who simply, for whatever reason, choose not to engage online. That’s the case with my Uncle Dan.

My mom texted me the other day saying she’s been trying to get ahold of Dan, her brother-in-law, but found that his phone number was disconnected. I hadn’t thought of my Uncle Dan in quite awhile. He was my dad’s older brother–by quite a few years–and the sole surviving sibling after my dad passed away in 2012.

Meeting Uncle Dan
The first time I met Dan was about 1980…but I don’t remember it; I was only around two years old. My mom and I had flown out to California to attend a wedding on her side of the family, but it was Dan–my dad’s brother–that graciously offered to pick us up at LAX.

The second time I met Dan was in 1989…and this I remember. My mom, dad, and I had flown out to California to see family and do the Disneyland thing. We visited with Dan in Long Beach where he lived. I remember him taking us to his favorite breakfast joint, Eggs, Etc.¬†We also ventured down with him to Mission San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach.

The following year in 1990, he came out to Indiana by train (he didn’t like to fly) to visit with us and his mom (my grandma) who wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with.

That was the last time I saw him in person. He and my dad weren’t close. They loved each other, but a phone call on Christmas and birthdays usually sufficed. After my dad passed away, we lost touch. That’s on me.

About Uncle Dan
So here’s what I know (or think I know) about Dan. His full name is Daniel Alan Hardenbrook. He is around 83 years old as of 2018. He is a U.S. military veteran, having served in Korea. I’m not sure which branch of the military. I believe he also spent time in Greenland during his military service.

After the military, he ended up settling in Long Beach, CA where I think he worked as a pipe fitter. When we saw him in 1989, he was working at a hardware store. I remember him being down-to-earth with a fierce independent streak.

He lived in an apartment and his longtime address was 1121 Stanley Avenue, Long Beach, CA, 90804.

Lost Communication

After my dad died and my mom moved own of town, she disconnected her landline phone number of 30+ years. That’s the number that Dan would have known. She had given him her mobile number, but we’re not sure if he wrote it down or saved it.

I had given him my mobile number a few years back, but I’ve since changed it. Dan didn’t have a mobile number. He also wasn’t on social media.

Dan wasn’t in touch with any immediate family members that we are aware of.

Librarian Sleuthing and Court Records Search

I tried doing some librarian sleuthing. His name hasn’t popped up in the Long Beach newspaper. However, I did find something unsettling. After doing a California court records search, apparently he was evicted from his apartment–his longtime address–in November 2017.

Where does an 83-year old man go? He had friends, but we can’t recall names nor how to get in contact with them. Do I start looking for neighbors? Check homeless shelters? Maybe VA facilities since he was a veteran?

This is our fault for not staying in touch. Despite living in a world of constant communication and technology that seems to be increasingly invading our private lives, some people are off the grid.

I hope I can find Uncle Dan.

Is your mom Mrs. Huxtable? My first information literacy memory

First a little background: I grew up in small town Indiana. My mom is Hispanic; my dad white.

It’s the mid-1980s. I’m in the second grade. I remember this event like it was yesterday: It turned out to be my first inkling of “information literacy” – although too young to know it – and the term itself wasn’t emphasized until 1989.

This is what happened: My mom came to visit me at school. After she left, one of my classmates asked me in all seriousness:

Is your mom Mrs. Huxtable?

Yes, Claire Huxtable. The mom from 1980s hit The Cosby Show.

As a second grader, I couldn’t define the word askance, but that was the look I had on my face.

Here’s how the conversation unfolded:

Me: Where did you hear that?

Him: Nowhere. I just thought that.

[Insert future librarian thinking: Where did he get his information from? Why hasn’t he verified it?]

Me: You know that Mrs. Huxtable is just a character on The Cosby Show, right? She’s not a real person.

[Insert future librarian thinking: Why can’t he distinguish between fiction and real-life?]

Him: Oh.

Me: You also know that Mrs. Huxtable is African-American, right? My mom is Mexican.

[Insert future librarian thinking: I want to go grab the shiny new World Book Encyclopedia off of the shelf. Why isn’t he using prior knowledge as context? After all, I know he’s eaten at my aunt’s taco truck. Everyone in town knows it!]

Him: Oh. Ok.

Another classmate: “I heard your mom was Hawaiian.”

Me: [sigh]

Here’s my mom – mid-1980s (top) and Mrs. Huxtable, aka Phylicia Rashad (bottom). What do you think?


Things My Dad Taught Me

I haven’t blogged much this summer–my mind has been elsewhere…

My dad passed away back in May. He was 63. It was a brain tumor–the most aggressive kind, discovered last October. An operation followed and most of it was removed, however it reappeared rapidly again in the spring. This time, surgery was not an option. Instead of prolonging the inevitable, he dealt with it on his own terms. Dad had a slow and gradual decline and went peacefully in his sleep at his home.

I’ve been thinking about him a lot. In fact, it was on a Friday when I pulled into the library parking lot and got the phone call with the bad news. I had been planning on seeing him the very next day.

Usually I blog about library-related things here. I’m making an exception just this once. Although these items below are general in nature, I can see some applications for librarians…So here goes: Things my dad taught me, or lessons learned from him and his life:

  • Don’t waste time. If there’s something you want to do, then do it! It could be a job promotion you want, a trip you want to take, losing a few pounds…whatever. Stop making excuses. Stop wasting your time. Time is something you can never get back.
  • The golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Before criticizing other people, put yourself in their shoes.
  • The customer is not always right. Outrageous demands? Yelling? Don’t let it slide. Be firm, yet tactful. Bad behavior shouldn’t get rewarded. How will anyone learn?
  • Stop worrying about what other people think of you. Concentrate on being a good person. Do a good job. Trust your own judgment.
  • Cherish nature: it’s one of the few things in life that is free – a beautiful sunrise, fog rising off of the lake, a crisp autumn morning, the crunch of snow beneath your shoes. Go out and enjoy it.
  • Stop being overcommitted. Or at least don’t whine about it. “Oh, I have another committee meeting.” Learn to say “No” when you need to. Use your vacation time. Learn to unwind. Take time to enjoy life for yourself.
  • Learn how to tell a story: My dad was what you would call a raconteur – everyone loved to hear him tell a story. A lot of us can easily present facts, but how do we weave it into a story? How do we make the information relatable? That is key.
  • Everyone has something to contribute. Everyone is important. We all have our different areas of expertise, but we all have something to share. Don’t think you’re better than the next person. Be humble.

I miss my dad a lot, but I also have many good memories–and have hopefully learned a few of his good traits.