Sunday, March 18, 2007

Peter



We always knew he would go places. Pete was an entrepreneur at age 5, selling used fireworks he collected off the street to his buddy for "$3" (he actually received 3 twenties, stolen from the friend's brother.) He was inventing from the age of 10. His favorite Christmas present was a box of 1,000 tiny, unidentifiable pieces that he assembled into a remote controlled car.

One day he and his friend Garrett were downstairs creating something. They surfaced long enough to eat all the cereal in one box, and then headed down to their project. Later they were working on it in the driveway. This was typical Pete. I'd ask what he was doing as he was racing down the stairs or outside to the garage for some tool. He'd always answer but moved and talked so fast, I couldn't really follow his reply. Dee's home office was upstairs with a huge wall of windows overlooking the street. The kids usually didn't disturb him during the day while he was writing. I was cleaning in the bedroom and suddenly I heard whoops and hollers, and Pete and Garrett came pounding up the stairs. I followed them as they ran to the windows in the office. They breathlessly explained that the airplane they'd made from the cereal box, remote control car parts, and fireworks had taken off and was now on fire on the neighbors roof. We looked out and sure enough, it had crash landed in flames! Luckily the breeze that lifted it off the ground blew it out. This is also typical Pete. He does everything by trial and error, his results are usually huge in one way or another, and it always turns out well.

In high school Pete came home one day with a great deal. For only $350 he could buy an old VW that he could restore. It didn't run, but he knew he could fix it. He already had a landscaping business and had the money, so if we gave permission, he wanted to buy it. A few days later the exterior of this car arrived in our driveway. Apparently the engine was extra. He'd be purchasing that with his next check.

Soon we had lots of VW parts laying in our entry hall. I complained about this but Pete assured me it was only for a day or two. He had them all in a specific order so he would know how to put them back together, and nobody could touch them. The project stretched into weeks. We were vacuuming around the pieces, and guests were stepping over them to get into the house. Our guests included several of Pete's friends who huddled over the car and watched while Pete worked. They were all in and out of the bathroom using some kind of smelly orange soap to clean the pieces and their hands. I had totally lost control of the situation. Finally I issued the ultimatum: the car parts had to be gone by Thanksgiving (a few days away.) I was not going to have company climbing over this mess!!!

I came home from the grocery store Wednesday evening ready to load everything into a giant garbage bag and say good-bye to the VW project and all the 16 year old mechanic wannabes that were living in my house. I drove in just in time to see the boys lifting the car up so that Pete could insert the engine. After a few tantalizing tries, the car started and Pete drove it off around the block. I'll never forget those boys all leaping in the air, hugging each other as this little car clanked it's way up the hill. It was later painted to look like Herbie, and even later Pete sawed it in half, hoping to turn it into a truck.

By then Pete had purchased a new fixer-upper, a 1970's VW bus. He worked on that for months. The interior was torn out and replaced, cleaned and painted. He haunted the car graveyards for parts: a steering wheel here, a gear shift knob there. He got it running and was extremely proud to be part of the VW club. He'd always report that other VW owners would honk and wave, giving a thumbs up to his restoration. One night he was on his way to a movie and all the other drivers on the road were giving the routine honk and wave, but even more enthusiastically than usual. Pete was the man! He waved back, grinning ear to ear over his masterpiece when someone pulled up beside him and yelled, "You're on fire!" Pete quickly pulled over at a TGI Fridays, ran in and got their fire extinguisher, and put his tail out.

Pete had become a computer whiz. He worked in people's yards all day and spent the proceeds online at night. Packages were arriving at our house by FedEx almost every day with new equipment. He had purchased a video camera, and was now making movies on the computer. This was cutting edge technology at the time, and Pete was following it all and applying it. He started making videos for his classes, and others utilized his talents. There was a steady stream of high school kids coming in and out of our house. Pete raced home from school, and set himself up downstairs at the computer. The doorbell rang constantly all afternoon and evening as Pete prepared book reports, presentations and movies for his classmates.

We were not very patient with this. It seemed to us that all these people (including some teachers, and adults from the neighborhood) were taking extreme advantage of Pete. We called for a stop. Our home was not a business, Pete was a student and shouldn't be giving away his time and skills when he had his own homework to attend to. Besides, by then he was doing work for Dee, too, and that was more important than a bunch of book reports! He pleaded his case...he had promised...he just had to finish two more...he needed to work on the graduation video...In the meantime he was buying the newest equipment, selling his older equipment online, and actually setting up a business. He just wasn't getting paid for anything, and he was supposed to be a high school student.

One of Dee's projects that year was to create an archive for a huge business. He told Pete how he was organizing it all, and that the company was then donating the collection to a big university in another state. Pete suggested it could be archived digitally. Dee was very interested and Pete assured him they could do it. Dee took the suggestion to the business and they went for it, to the tune of $35,000. Pete purchased the necessary equipment and they had a year to complete it. This was huge to Dee, of course, but Pete was just inserting it into his own schedule of work. Dee continually asked Pete how it was coming, but Pete usually was finishing some project for his German class, and would be getting to it soon. When Dee had done all that he could do, and with the completion date 3 months away, he sat Pete down for a business chat and it came out...things were at a standstill. Everything was scanned and ready to go, but in Pete's research he couldn't find a program that would do what they needed it to, and Pete was going to have to create it. "Don't worry, Dad."

Dee had been paid on a monthly basis, and had to deliver. I won't go into the periodic panic attacks happening in our bedroom at night, or the nausea the regular meetings with the company produced. Pete delivered...as always! With only a few days to go, he was working 24/7, and the morning they were scheduled to leave, he came upstairs with the digital archive, one of the first of it's kind. The next day, in front of TV cameras and city dignitaries, this 18 year old demonstrated his product and taught the librarians at the university how to use it.

Dee had been brought into the technological age and was now preparing a manuscript on a computer. One morning I heard a blood curdling scream from his office and I ran in to find that he'd lost his manuscript. It was now floating somewhere out in cyberspace and he had no idea how to find it. He told me to call the high school and tell them to send Pete home because his dad was having a heart attack. A few minutes later Pete screeched in, and was soon on the case. The phone rang an hour or so later, and it was the computer teacher at the school. I was ready to lie for Pete, knowing Dee could not spare him, but the teacher quickly said he didn't need Pete to come to class, he just needed his help for a minute over the phone. The school's computers were down, and Pete walked the teacher through the repair process, and then went on to find Dee's manuscript.

I could fill a book with stories about Pete. He was our 6th child, and teased by his older brothers. When he was little, Dee assured him he would probably end up taller and bigger than they were and they'd soon look up to him. As it happened, Pete is the shortest of the boys, but everyone in our family looks up to him.

Pete started his own business when he was 21. He dropped out of college 3 times because his company was so successful he couldn't keep up with the demands. He was selling projects using technology his computer professors didn't even know about. He realized his skills were being developed in the process. We could finally see that the work he was giving away in high school was his education. He had learned how to work, how to learn, and how to apply his skills with confidence. He found an office downtown, and moved into his own apartment when he was 22. He was on his way.

After traveling to Europe several times on his own to ski, make a documentary and just explore, Pete finally decided he wanted a partner. This past year he found the most perfect girl.

She completes him! They were married in September after a very quick engagement, and took a 3 week trip to England and Europe, backpacking all the way. Together, they are really going places.



12 comments:

anna jo said...

ahhh, so cute! isn't peter the best?!

Nimmy said...

Pete has always been a favorite in the family. His life has been so entertaining to watch. As a fellow employee of Heritage Associates, Pete taught me everything I know about the desktop design industry. Thanks for all the tutoring and comraderie down in the Excelsius basement! Those were good times. I'm a geek because of you.

PI said...

What a great story. You must be very proud.

Susan said...

What a GREAT story!! I love it that he was able to hone his skills in your home. It's so important...and just LOOK where it all lead. I often tell myself that when my boys are dragging more musical equipment in our home. At least they are at MY HOME.

Blessings, and thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you'll come visit again sometime.

Susan

kenju said...

That's a wonderful story! I wish the newlyweds well.

Bev said...

sounds to me like you and Dee did a great job! Your kids must have strong roots and you've given them wings!

mama jo said...

that's fun to hear about pete's activies..he's a talented guy with a wonderful wife...

Miggs said...

Pete has always been way ahead of his time and has expertise in divergent technologies. It takes courage to start a business and a lot of hard work to make it profitable. You're awesome Rhett Ross.

kenju said...

I loved your comment about the old boyfriends. I assume most of mine were sorry they lost me too - in fact - I know that 2 of them did, but they're dead now, so.....lol

Stie said...

I love that you even got Micah out of lurkville to comment on good ol' Pete! Micah, we're waiting for the link to your secret blog...come out!

Gramafolly said...

I love hearing stories about these kids, because I can remember them when they were all so little and cute. And now they are grown up, but still cute.

gab said...

Pete is the best! I wish I had a fraction of his genius...