All you really need to know about my Dad is that he will celebrate his 90th birthday this Saturday and he’s making long-range plans. That’s right, folks. He is thinking about the future and aiming for 100. His own mother lived to 101 so he thinks this is reasonable.
Ideally, he says, his goal is to be the oldest living World War Two U.S. Army Veteran. He enlisted at the age of 18, was called to active duty at 19, and served in China (where Americans helped the Chinese Army fight the Japanese) from 1944-46.
I know it’s a cliche but I’m pretty sure they don’t make ‘em like dear old Dad anymore. The man is right out of central casting, an all-around great American guy from another era who says things like, “Golly,” “Gee whiz!” and my personal favorite: “Swell!”
Do you know that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Stewart says, “Hot dog!” Well, my Dad says that, too.
A lifelong Methodist, a 1941 Eagle Scout, married to the same woman (Mom) since 1950, father of four children (of which I’m the youngest), devoted grandpa, and most recently, a great-grandpa, he has lived a full life as well as a long one. Throughout life’s ups and downs he has always been a “glass half-full” kind of person.
He is one of the most outgoing persons I’ve ever met and – no question about it – my number one fan.
Twenty years ago, when my first book, Having Our Say, was published, Dad stood in front of a bookstore in New York City and pointed to it in the window. “My daughter wrote that book!” he would say to passersby. When I heard what he was doing, I assumed people would think he was a total nut – this was, after all, on the streets of Manhattan – but it actually worked. He was oozing pride and evidently people (especially women of a certain age) found it extremely charming. A significant number of people went inside the store and bought the book.
He has cheered me on all the years since. With the publication of my first novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, in 2012, Dad crafted a brand-new sales pitch. “She can write fiction, too!” he tells folks at the assisted living apartment complex where my parents now live.
Mom, now 88, is just as proud as he is, but she is a quiet person who does not want to “annoy” (her word) people by boasting about her children’s successes.
But Dad can’t seem to help himself. “It’s very funny, and it’s so well written, and the characters are so wonderful! You will feel like you know them!” he will say about my novel to anyone within earshot.
No one is safe, not even the staff of the emergency room where he was taken by ambulance on the day after Thanksgiving. (Don’t worry – he came out of it just fine.) We were in the E.R. for nine hours during which time Dad estimates that he convinced at least forty people to buy my novel. He might be right, based on the number of doctors, nurses and technicians who came up to me and said, “Your father told me all about your novel! Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it!” And, indeed, there was a sales up-tick at bookstores in the county where they live.
As he turns 90, I’ve heard from my childhood friends who remember him with great fondness and love. “He talked to us, and he always listened,” my friend Alison recalls. Unlike many of the dads in that era, he was very involved, thoughtful, and just plain fun.
I’ve been blessed with having a great dad, and for having him all these years, too. Forgive me for being greedy, but I pray that he’s around for a few good years yet.
Happy Birthday, Dad! You’re a swell guy!