Wally World Seattle
My father was not a trained architect or engineer. He sold soda for major companies most of his life. He had no education beyond high school.
However, as I have aged and I have had years to reflect on his life, he had the qualities of the fictional hero Howard Roark. Perhaps it is a stretch to characterize him an iconoclastic based off his one and only work but the story of Wally World shows that he very much was. An in a way that was marked by love and empathy.
The photo above the link to this article was my father’s greatest creation. Wally World. Dedicated to the birth of me. A kindness and standing memory that makes me tear up every time I look at Wally World.
The area where Wally World stands was an unsightly bare spot covered with dirt, rocks and questions. What is the world to do with this spot?
Mike began to create a plan. A plan that as it evolved disquieted my more pragmatic mother and perplexed friends and neighbors.
All parties, kith and kin alike would say incredulously, “You are going to build a treehouse?”
And their incredulity was warranted; I was 15 when the ground broke for Wally World.
So why then?
I was too young to understand the significance at the time. My bank of experience didn’t allow me to draw down enough perception to see what was is now obvious.
For many years my father worked long hours and retreated home to sleep. He was often unavailable, and it was hard for him to engage. I’d inquire if he was OK and was always met with terse affirmatives that he was.
For many years he would draw up ideas for the back yard only to discard them. What was it that caused so much vacillation?
But then the vacillation ceased. He broke ground and used enough cement for the foundation that he boasted it could support a skyscraper. Again, not an engineer but a man certainly prone to extremes. He may have not been far off.
Work was steady. I assisted as did a hired hand my dad befriended while volunteering at Union Gospel Mission.
Perhaps at the 40 percent completion mark he set about to working on putting in the retaining walls that stand before Wally World.
Once that was complete, I saw my father retreat once more into his own world. The project stopped and the frame of the treehouse stood as a sort of a sad reminder of what could have been.
When I turned 18, I moved out and my father and I kept a sort of distant but interactive relationship. We talked almost daily but I am not sure much was said. We sort of lost track of each other.
Returning from New York after failing at what I thought was my destiny in life I was met at the airport by my father. It was my birthday.
The ride home was silent but he promised me a surprise. Something he said I would never guess.
And he was right.
Stepping out into the back yard deck there was Wally World. Complete. A custom sign hanging proudly: “Wally World, Established 1986.”
And then from across our neighbor’s house came a young pack of kids no older than 4 or 5. The perfect age to enjoy what must have looked like a house all to themselves.
“A little late, but this is for you, son.”
It was a project that took over 15 years to see through to completion. I know my dad struggled with depression and although a blog I hope you’ll pardon me sharing this personal detail. But he endured, fought for his vision, fought to show me that it was possible to start even amidst the darkness; possible to finish what was deemed never to be finished.
Wally World doesn’t shine as bright as she did 10 years ago. I have tried to keep her up but lamentably, I lack the skills my father possessed. But that shouldn’t deter me, should it?
This year I will take the lesson my father passed to me to more than just a lesson in words. It will be put to application.
See Wally World now and see her when I write this next year.
For you, Dad.