Today would be my father’s 99th birthday were he only alive to share it with me. I wish he was. Of all the people I have lost over the years, I miss Dad the most.
He was steadfast, hard-working, opinionated, fair, faithful and funny. He always had something to say, and most of the time what he said pissed me off.
I learned to debate growing up with this man, although I never won one of those debates in his eyes. At one point I so offended him with my conservative viewpoint, he left my house instead of staying for the whole visit. That super pissed me off and he knew it would.
It was kind of interesting in 1998 when he came to live with my family. I knew he had to be with us. He wasn’t happy on his own any longer. Mom had been gone for a couple of years and his diet consisted of hamburgers and vegetable beef soup with occasional donuts thrown in for variety. I remember visiting him and not seeing one fresh vegetable in the house. He pointed out the 20 cans of green beans in the pantry. Oi.
My father was a Democrat with a capital D. So was I, when I was living at home. As I matured and the Democrats didn’t, I became a Republican. Now that word had never been heard in my growing up home without the word Damn in front of it. Seriously.
The Democrats my father adored were FDR, Adlai Stevenson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He was less thrilled with George McGovern and Walter Mondale. He thought they were dull.
He told me that Richard Nixon was the most intelligent president we’d ever had. He said it was a shame he’d been made to resign and he detested Gerald Ford. Can’t say I would disagree with that.
If Papa were alive today and looking at this administration, he would be appalled. I was so glad he died before 9/11 because The Depression had been such a psychologically horrid time for both my parents, I cannot imagine what our new age of terrorism would have made them feel. They knew there was no financial security at all and to not have any national security would have frightened them both.
He would not have liked the way the current president talks. He would sit there and say, you know, he’s got it all wrong. He’s not thinking. Papa would have been the first to say bomb the shit out of the terrorists. After all, FDR did.
Although politics would get us at each other’s throats, we did all right for most of the time he lived with us. I got used to having the TV on all day and hearing the NASCAR races on the weekends. Something about that VROOM all day long almost put me over the edge. My son and husband were working so they didn’t get the full treatment.
We had arguments about everything, from the time I was born to a week before he died. Everything. I remember trying to lose weight as a teenager and Dad telling me water would make me fat. Okay. I remember taking him to the ER and having him tell the doctor that I cooked with garlic and therefore he had to eat bags of chocolate because garlic made him sick. He never ate one thing with garlic in it. Ever. I made him separate meals, but he forgot to tell the doctor that. Too much information, I guess and then no excuse for the BAGS OF CHOCOLATE!!!
I miss those arguments, I miss going places with him – he was game for going anywhere at any time, like to little country fairs in Illinois and farmers markets in Indiana or searching for antique quilts on the weekends. We took him with us to PEI when we closed on our home, which I had picked out because it was on the water and Dad loved to fish. I knew he would miss his home on the lake in Illinois and that he would be happier if he could look out the window and see water. And I miss his advice when I would ask him what he thought I should do about this or that. I miss his laughter which would roll up out of his center and encompass the whole room. I just miss him.
So on that cold November day, 99 years ago, deep in southern Indiana, my hero was born. Happy Birthday Papa.