Yesterday was my dad's birthday. He became 84 years young . This is my dad when he was a young boy and this year. He had that steel guitar, but I don't think he became very skilled at playing it. He was an only child and was pampered, but not too much, by his mom. She did stuff like cut crusts off his sandwiches and fix ONLY Franco-American spaghetti, but he did not turn out to be a spoiled brat. He graduated early from high school and married my mom when he was not quite 20 years old. Shortly after that, he joined the Navy during World War II. He served on a radio repair ship in the Pacific. When he came home, he was a father as well as a husband and son, and my family settled into a post-war life. He began working at GE, where he worked until he retired. He always regretted that he didn't get a chance to go to college, but he worked hard and earned himself a professional engineer certification.
During the time I was growing up, Dad was the main breadwinner while Mom took care of the household. However, when he came home from work each evening, he had plenty of time for us. He would do things like lie on the floor and fly us like Superman or get into our little wading pool and cool off with us. Every year he and Mom took us on a neat family vacation, one week to someplace we hadn't visited before and one week to Erie to visit our grandparents. I looked forward to those summer trips, and it's probably where I developed my love of travel that I still have. He was a strict disciplinarian, but a loving one,and we toed the line. No matter where we were playing in the neighborhood, when he came outside and whistled, we came running. It was suppertime or time to go somewhere.
Once all of us grew up and left home, it was just Mom and Dad, and they got along just fine without us. They traveled together, settling finally on winters in Panama City Beach, Florida, in the mid-1980's. Dad still winters in the same spot now. Mom and Dad were each other's support during the health crises they both suffered and during the time following my grandparents' illnesses and deaths. Dad saw how much his father had depended on his mother for everything and how he deteriorated after her death. Without knowing he would later be in the same situation, Dad vowed then not to let the same thing happen to him. And it didn't. During the time of my mom's illness, Dad picked up the slack and did all the household chores and took care of her, in spite of having such painful knees that he could hardly walk himself. He became very adept at caring for her and for his own needs, which would serve him well after she died.
After Mom died, Dad made a conscious decision to go on and try to enjoy life, and he has done well at it. He has had his knees replaced and remains healthy and clear-minded. He does things that will keep his mind active, and he doesn't seem anywhere near his age. People hear that he is 84, and they immediately think of him as nursing home material, but he's not. I just think of him as Dad, the go-to guy he has always been. I don't worry about him driving or going places by himself. He is very capable of taking care of himself, and he is justifiably proud of it. Of course I wish him many more happy years of traveling to Florida and enjoying the company of his friends. Happy Birthday, Dad!
P.S. I forgot to say that I admire and love my dad ever so much. I hope I age as gracefully as he has!