My dad’s way of dealing with challenging situations in life – most recently, aging – is to face them head-on with humor.
In recent years, he has started referring to himself as “the Relic from Another Era,” followed by a hearty chuckle.
I sometimes forget that he’s 91.
And then something happens that reminds me. Recently, for example, I came across a photo of him as a little boy wearing a sailor suit. Yes, it was the 1920s, and yes, it was the height of fashion for boys to be dressed that way. But frankly he looks like Lady Mary Crawley’s little darling son in “Downton Abbey.” Talk about a relic from another era!
“Your grandmother insisted on dressing me in those awful sailor suits,” he complains, then laughs. “I hated them!”
Hated them so much, in fact, that when he decided to enlist in the Armed Services, he chose Army over Navy. “No way was I going to wear a sailor suit,” he recalls with a smile.
He’s not so sure that his generation was “The Greatest” but he adds, “We were pretty darned good, I guess!” Lately, as a way of dealing with the fact that his Army buddies have passed away one by one, he’s been calling himself, “The Greatest Remnant, hahaha!”
Indeed, when he talks about the war is when I remember, with a shock, how old he is. Recently he was sharing his war experiences with someone at a doctor’s office. The part that sounded especially antiquated was when he mentioned that his training in the Army started in 1942 and included “horse drawn artillery.”
You have to admit, that sounds rather quaint. Horse drawn artillery?
But to me, he’s still the same man who patiently read to me from my favorite picture books. He taught me how to ride a bicycle and a thousand other things, such as how to sail, canoe, start an outboard motor, write my first resume, and drive a car.
When I was six and lost a baby tooth, then accidentally let it slip through my fingers and down the sink drain, it was Dad who came up with the idea to write a letter to the tooth fairy, explaining the situation.
Although I was the youngest of four, and most of my friend’s fathers were quite a bit younger than him, he was an energetic and involved dad. Unique among the dads in our neighborhood in the 1960s, he would go trick or treating with us – and wore a wolf mask. (If any mean boys tried to scare my sister or me, he would howl and leap out from behind a tree. How cool is that?)
I can recall those days as if they occurred last week. Dad is not the same spry, athletic person he was. But he’s still Dad.
Same laugh. Same blue eyes.
And same great outlook on life.
Happy Father’s Day to the Greatest Remnant, and all of the great dads out there!