Saturday, February 4, 2017

My father's 100th birthday

My father was born 100 years ago today (February 4, 1917). In many ways, he was a typical man of his generation. Born into a family with very little, he used his charm and street smarts to move from the working class to the upper middle class over his many jobs and several careers. He worked hard, took risks, invested unwisely, went bankrupt a couple of times, got back up and built it again. He put the four of us kids college, loaned me money for grad school. He stayed married to our mother for more than 50 years and was her steadfast companion through dementia and her death when they were both 80. He married an old friend whom we all adore and had five happy years with her until his own death from complications of prostate cancer.

My father was a big, handsome Irishman who could charm and talk to anyone. He knew famous people by chance. He was the favorite of every waitress he ever encountered. He was also a hypochondriac, a romantic, a sentimental fool, and an on-again/off-again father who put earning money above domestic engagement. A liberal in his youth, he became conservative in middle age and a born-again liberal in his old age.

My father's choices taught me that men aren't very available and women just have to accept that. This set me up for a series of unsuccessful relationships. But he also taught me that all work is honorable, no matter what it is. That there is always a solution to a problem. That steadfastness is to be prized.

In 1999, three years before his death, I found a way to let go of all my old resentments with my dad and to become 100% responsible for the best possible relationship with him. Those three years were a huge gift to me of love and affection with him that I am so grateful for.

I very often feel my dad's presence and today is one of those days. I am grateful for that too. 

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