My Dad would have celebrated his 93rd birthday today. Sadly for me he passed away on March 27th, 2001, shortly after his 89th birthday.
Dad was born in 1912 and witnessed a great many things transpire over his lifetime.
Born in the Delta of Mississippi, he spent part of his young childhood living on a riverboat, farming, and then working with his step-father in a sawmill for the enormous pay of 17 cents an hour.
But Dad took advantage of the Civilian Conservation Corps initiative and became a baker for a railroad project.
He joined the US Army Air Corp in 1939.
In 1941, Dad was walking to work, and looked up in the sky to see hundreds of planes approaching, the airfield he was traversing began to take enemy fire, strafing bullets hit the ground around him. He made it to his station to learn that Japanese Forces were attacking Pearl Harbor.
From Hawaii, he later was stationed in Manila, The Philippines.
In 1951, he married Polly Hall. He was 40, she was 26. Old people by southern standards. He left Polly and two kids in Texas, while he was “stationed” to “the top of the world”; Thule, Greenland in the Arctic Circle.
He retired in 1960 and bought a house near his final duty at Columbus Air Force Base.
But, not ready to quit living, he converted his military vocation to a Civil Service job and at age 50, had one more child, the author of this blog.
But, he supported me in all that I did, and little did he realize that his wit and imagination that he used on me as a child was the very thing that inspired me to be what I wanted to be.
Dad’s favorite poem was by Edgar Guest. The first line reads,
“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.”
And each day, he showed me that sermon in his life.
These days I look around my home and I remember Dad.
His funeral flag is folded in a traditional triangle and sits atop a bookcase in my living room. Rifle shells from his gun salute, next to his military medals rest in a small jewelry box. His picture sets on a table.
I still dream about him being alive from time to time, talking to me. And normally a day doesn’t pass that I don’t think about him.
The night he died, I stopped at my favorite bar back “home”. I bought a round a drinks in his honor and toasted his name.
Shortly after the toast, a huge burly “biker” came up to me, and grabbed me in a “bear hug”. After the hug, he looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and said,
“Man, I knew your Dad. He was great man, but he ain’t gone, dude, he lives inside you”
And so he does.
Happy Birthday, Dad!