It’s my birthday, a day I’ve always enjoyed. Can’t remember a bad one. Here's a few random reflections, likely stemming from putting another chalk mark on the wall of my life span.
My most recent blog post, the one about standing for the national anthem, garnered more page-views than any of the other 120 posts I’ve written over the past three years. Nearly 400 people took a look at it, a number that was no doubt boosted by a couple of friendly Facebook shares. Thank you all for reading it.
To a writer, that sort of response is a better birthday gift than almost anything. And to me, it reflects that issues like patriotism are on all our minds in these troubled days. Then the historian in me asks what days have not been troubled? Still, how we fit concepts like patriotism into our worldview, especially as Christians, must be important to a lot of us.
It’s been a year and a few weeks since my mother passed away and I’ve thought about her more this past year than I did when she was living. That’s not a realization I’m proud of, but it is a fact.
My dad just turned 97 and his memory is slipping, along with his eyesight. I love Pop, a man who still volunteers at the local hospital once a week, and until his eyesight got too bad just last year, he and my stepmother were still delivering Meals on Wheels to the ‘old people.’
I admit I still chafe sometimes over my father's lack of involvement in my life when I was a kid. But he was a man of his generation, a guy who spent a career literally working six long days a week, and often went ‘back to the plant’ for a while on Sundays.
I’m glad that later in life, Pop and I made three trips together, just he and me traveling. First, the two of us went backpacking at Big Bend National Park when I was nearly 30 and he was nearly 60. We trekked to the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains, carrying everything, including water. That was tiring, but the days together with no one else to carry the conversation, put the two of us on the path of a father-son friendship that I wish we’d been able to start on 20 years earlier. I suppose it's just easier for fathers and sons to do that once the son grows up and mellows for a decade or two or three.
I say that because thirty more years passed by, three busy decades when I was a working father myself. Only when our nest was empty of our grown sons, and I was in my late 50's, and Pop was in his 80’s, did he and I travel alone again. We drove from Texas to Lexington, Virginia to seek out clues to our ancestors who lived there in there in the 1800’s.
I expected long periods of silence in the car, but Pop chatted through every mile of it—four days of chatting. I swear he just decided to make up for those years of having to put his job before his kids, by telling me everything he still remembered about his own youth.
Lastly, just a year ago, with me in my 60’s and Pop at 96, we went together to New Orleans. Not for the jazz, but with a bunch of other WW II veterans and their ‘guides,’ to the WW II National Museum, on a trip pampering and recognizing the old vets. That was cool. Pop felt honored, and I felt honored to be with him.
BTW, Pop was a ground crew technician for the secret Norton bombsight, and served in Europe. He shipped out three days after he and my mother married in the living room of the base chaplain's house, and he was overseas for 2 ½ years before he saw his new bride again. Today, we are clueless about that sort of personal commitment to a national war effort.
I’m going to the gym now, another compulsion my dad has modeled for me throughout the second half of his life. Crazy old men. I wonder if I talk the ears off whoever is lifting weights when I’m there.