Obituary from Scripps Institute of Oceanography:
MICHAEL C. CLIFTON - As one of the early workers at the Hydraulics Laboratory, Mike was involved in a
wide variety of lab and field projects for many groups at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A talented
machinist and engineer, he designed and built many innovative instruments especially working with Bob Guza's
nearshore oceanography group. After a courageous battle with cancer, Mike retired to his beloved home that he
and his friends had built just outside Talent, Oregon. Early in his career at Scripps, Mike worked on this unique
A-Frame log cabin starting with the timber on his property during the summer months. When the days
shortened and the rains came, Mike would head south for the easily available work here. Mike had a way with
words, a knack for story-telling, and a remarkable life.
As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, my brother died. He died on April 5, 2010, but we didn't know it until this past week. We were estranged, we had drited apart for a myriad of reasons. Only those from blended families...blended families that haven't blended well...would understand the hurts and issues involved with all of it. So anyway...my brother and I had drifted apart over the years. There wasn't some huge blow up that caused us to be estranged. We were just caught up in the dysfunction and challenges of being the children of divorce and remarriage...and being siblings with two completely separate families.
It was strange, the way we found out that he died. My niece, Peggy, works in a vet's office and one of my brother's old co-workers is a client of hers. When he found out about my brother, he thought we should know so he went in and told my niece. That's how we found out. I thank God that we did. Because we found out when we did, we were able to take part in a memorial pot luck/celebration of his life that his old co-workers organized.
I was so nervous about going. I felt like maybe I shouldn't be there. I mean, after all, we had drifted apart and my brother didn't want me to be a part of his life anymore. I felt awkward and out of place...like somehow I didn't deserve to be at his memorial.
I couldn't have been more wrong! My brother worked at Scripps Institute of Oceanography for many years before he got sick with cancer and was forced to retire. It was his old friends and co-workers there who had the memorial get togther. They were the most welcoming, warm hearted people I have met in a long time. They obviously loved my brother and remembered him with stories and shared memories of times spent with him over the years.
As I sat there and listened to the stories I had grown up listening to...my brother was a gifted story teller and musician.....He was 13 years older than me and I adored him! He would show up at the house, pulling up the driveway in the "coolest cars" in the world, from my perspective! Then he would sit on the floor with us and he would play his guitar and sing and tell amazing stories of trips and adventures he had been on! Our very favorite song that he sang was one that we called "The Meatball Song". We would jump up and down when he got out of his "cool car" (in reality one of many rattletrap old volvos that he drove) and beg him to sing the meatball song over and over again!...so anyway, last night at the memorial, we met the people of those stories...we were able to put faces to the stories and adventures we'd heard so many times...and in the process we were given back a piece of our brother's spirit to carry in our hearts.
At one point, one of his friends had found a youtube video of "The Meatball Song" sang almost exactly the way my brother sang it and played it on a screen in the front of the room, with candles burning that we had lit for our brother...and there wasn't a dry eye in the entire room.
I think it was fitting that we said goodbye to him to the tune of "One Meatball"
Michael Cecil Clifton
March 13, 1945 - April 5, 2010
Goodbye big brother...I always loved you...
I wish I could hear you sing the meatball song one more time.
I wish I had been more intentional about reconnecting with you.
Last night your friends reminded me that you always were, and always will be, one of my heroes...