My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty Three

Funny thing about influence. It can come in the most obscure places.

In my case it was a television show called, “Northern Exposure.” It was on television from 1990 to 1995. It was about a New York City doctor sent to a tiny town in Alaska to practice medicine. It appeared to be a somewhat ideal life. TV at its finest.

Remember: My dad, James Whitmore, was an actor of some success and we grew up on television; movie production sets; and sound stages. TV and movies were a huge part of my growing up. I watched a lot of TV and movies as a kid and do so to this day.

Brennan was now nearly 5 when I decided to move my family to a tiny town in Southeastern Oregon thinking I would find a similar experience witnessed on TV. Not the smartest move on my part, I must say.

But let’s back up just for a bit. Then Oregon in all its finest, which did produce my second son, Sean. Just by the way, I was forced to deliver Sean in this small town of Lakeview, Oregon, because there was some kind of screw up during the delivery with the anesthesia and my wife at the time turned to me, ashen face, and whispered with all her might, “Can you please tell somebody I can’t breath.”

I did and the doc gave me an instrument and said, “pull out your son! We need to attend to your wife.” I did as instructed and delivered Sean into this world and he’s been a pain in the ass ever since. Not really. He’s a great guy. I’m lucky to be his pop.

Now back to Brennan, who was in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit for two weeks. That was nearly five years before the Oregon strangeness. Brennan did get stronger everyday and grew healthier and bigger every passing hour. Until finally, we could bring him home at a healthy 5-or-so pounds.

When we left the hospital, I was holding Brennan and my dad was walking alongside. As we entered the parking lot outside, a nice man or woman, I really don’t remember the gender, stopped us.

“I know you,” this kind person exclaimed, pointing at my dad. My dad, ever the most gracious with the public, smiled and thanked them. “No, I know you,” the person continued. “what’s your name? I know you. I just can’t think of it. Darn. What is it?”

Trying to be helpful, my dad responded, “James Whitmore.” The person recoiled, replying, “No, that’s not it. No, I know who you are. Give me a minute. I know ( a pause): You’re Ed Ames!” My dad smiled and agreed to give an autograph as Ed Ames. Life in the big city. Just as a side note, Mr. Ames was a popular singer and actor in the 50s and 60s, who often played a Native American.

“Jesus, what a life,” my dad said with a laugh as we walked toward my little economy car. I had placed the car seat right in the middle of the back seat so I could keep an eye on Brennan every minute. I probably drove about 5-miles-per-hour back to the apartment. Safe and sound.

Brennan was going to be safe and sound as long as I was able, I promised the skies above. I made the same promise when Sean came into the world that June day in 1992 in a small town in Southeastern Oregon.

We didn’t spend too much time in Lakeview, Oregon. We lasted about 9 months. Nice people. Nice place. Just not for us. I ended up as the managing editor of a little weekly newspaper in Lakeview as well as the managing editor for the local radio station. The work was fun. I do remember that.

But it was time to move on after about nine months. Sean was two weeks old when we moved back to the Southland.

My life was now set. I was sober. I had two kids and off we went as a family. I lived in Hutchinson, Kansas; La Crescenta; and Simi Valley of California. I worked different newspaper management jobs and wrote columns for Southland dailies. Life was now in session. I was present, and it was good. The days of yesteryear were gone and I was growing into a responsible, hard-working family man.

Next up: The final summation of this journey with the answer to the question: Was my dad’s help just that, a help, or was it a hindrance? The answer is next.


About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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