Thursday, October 20, 2016

Never forget a Birthday . . .

Yesterday would have been my dad’s 100st birthday. Sadly, he passed away in 2004, but there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not recall him in some way. It’s the little things like his off-the-wall witticisms. He was good at them, such as the popular Midwest adage, “Oh, go jump in the Lake (Lake Michigan, that was), Or this one, Oh, go scratch! And when I would get hurt, a scraped knee or a fall of my bike, he used reverse psychology and told me, “To do it again. He didn’t see it happen the first time!” That would get me so mad, but he would smile and made sure that I was alright. His smile was so genuine and his heart knew no bounds. 

The one constant characteristic about Dad is that he saved everything. Before hoarding became part of our lexicon, I remember living with piles of things, from boxes and newspapers reaching the ceiling, to walking in carefully placed paths around more piles of things. My mother would have a hissy-fit, but he turned a deaf ear. So, through the years, his stuff crowded every space imaginable. When push came to shove, and by virtue of relocations, much of his stuff disappeared. What remained we saved has much as we could. We looked through tons of boxes and bags, coffee cans, where ever Dad could find space to stash things.

As we investigated, we found the treasures. Boxes filled with oddities, like his coal miner’s breathing protection equipment for gas detection and lantern. He even saved a chuck of coal. Dad was a coal miner in Pennsylvania. He despised the work and as soon as he could, he joined the Navy. A veteran of WWII, he was on the USS Enterprise when it was hit by Japanese kamikaze, surviving by his wits alone. Later in his retirement years, he wrote about his life. I would see him sit at his desk and handwrite his thoughts. He had extremely fine penmanship. But he would not talk or share his writings.

Among these treasures were those writings. If they were not found, I would have never known so much about his life he wouldn’t talk about. Just before he passed away, I presented him with a hefty notebook filled with his papers, photographs and keepsakes. I have yet to finish it, as I am still finding paraphernalia I insert in the album.

Then I found a real treasure tucked into a birthday card he gave me. Dad was not a big gift giver. Mom took care of that. But here was a short note written to me and it took my breath away. I framed it and put it into our Family Museum.  It is a wonder how something that so easily could have been discarded sat hidden away for 22 years. Thank you dad for these precious words I will always cherish. I just wished I had him, but his words are enough to give me the encouragement to carry on, because he knew I was going to be successful “in whatever you set out to do.”   

Happy Birthday, Dad.

I will always love you.

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