Steven Saum: Commissioner of Forests and Weeds

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For Steven Saum the life of his father, long ago passed away, is only slightly captured in a handful of momentos.

Come June, like a lot of people, I think about my father. For him, this was a time of joy: Father’s Day, his wedding anniversary — and, for a high school math teacher who clocked three decades in that role, June brought school’s end.

Also like a lot of folks, I’ve tried over the past year to sort priorities and clutter: what to hang on to, how to ensure the days matter. One piece of paper I’ve kept, in a flimsy frame, propped against a shelf of poetry books, was given to my father by his grandparents. Issued by the U.S. Treasury War Finance Committee in 1945, it certifies 7-year-old Boyd as owner of a War Bond, “thereby becoming an investor in this country’s fight for human liberty and a contributor in a world struggle to make life free and forever peaceful for all men.” Encircling the text are 22 familiar faces — including Thumper, Donald, Goofy, all seven dwarfs, and Mickey in the upper right.

Another paper, hand-calligraphied and mounted on oak, was presented by the board of trustees of the village where we lived in the outskirts of Chicagoland, in appreciation for his years as Superintendent of Roads and Forester and Weeds Commissioner. I remember those years in the late ’70s; in the Midwest, when a winter snowstorm hit, the phone line installed in our living room would ring loud and shrill at 5 a.m. Time for the snowplows to hit the roads. On the certificate of appreciation, dangling from an illuminated letter T is a vine of three pink blossoms and one blue, the stamen of a flower just about kissing the F in Forester.

But I can let this go. Those years were just a sliver of his life — one that ended too soon. It was in June almost 30 years ago that he retired. His last day of work he had a stroke. He never came home. He was 55. For me, each year brings increasing poignancy just how young that is. But then, the pandemic has driven home lessons of terrible loss for so many.

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As for the bond from a time of global conflict, I’ll keep that a bit longer. It’s a gateway to my father’s childhood, epic backdrop to the beginning of his story.

With a Perspective, I’m Steven Saum.

Steven Saum is the editor of WorldView magazine and lives in San Jose.