Happy Birthday Dad…

My father was born on this day, August 12, 1898. Today would have been his 115th birthday. I thought his birthday was worth mentioning this year because I am now the same age he was, 57, when I was born back in 1955. I’ve been thinking about what I’d say for weeks, and, even as I begin, I’m still not sure what to say. So I’ll start with something I’ve had in my drafts folder for over two years:

I was watching reruns of the Star Wars movies on TV recently and, with it being the time of year for reflection, the following scene just struck me as being so poignant:

It’s amazing, not to mention damned weird, just how much Yoda reminds me of my father. No my friends, he wasn’t short and green with long pointed ears, but he was very old (at least to me), and he was very wise (when you could get him to talk), and he did talk with an odd accent (an admixture of American-Southern I think). And more importantly, Yoda’s words are a damned good reflection of what I’d expect from my father when it comes to judging how I’ve lived my life.

The only real difference is that, unlike Yoda, my father never warned me of the terrible fear I’d be living with throughout my life. I, of course, bear him no hard feelings for that. After all, he did die when I was only 13 and, let’s face it, he (and the other adults that I grew up around) were certainty made of much tougher stuff than me.

I’ve already written so much about my life on this blog, mostly in the My Life volume, and I’m not in any mood to repeat any of that here. But I must admit that, all in all, I’m not very happy with how my life has turned out. Which is why, at this time of year especially, I can’t help but wonder what I would change if I could do it all over again…

Other than what I wrote about my dad in my More Environmental Impact and Ghosts In The Mirror – A Message Of Thanksgiving posts, there isn’t a whole lot I can say about his life. I will say that he was already very sick when I was sent to live with my sister in Los Angeles in December of 1967 and, even now, some forty three years later, I’m still filled with both sorrow and rage over the circumstances surrounding the one last time I got to see him (and my older brother) before they both died.

Within a couple of months after my return from Los Angeles in February of 1970, not to West Virginia but to Ohio where my mom had moved while I was gone, my brother called to tell us we’d better get to West Virginia quick because my dad was on his death bed. When we got there, I had only a few disturbing and confusing minutes to visit with him before my mom’s impatience cut the visit short.

My dad’s doctors did, however, say that his condition was improving. So, after making plans with brother to visit him for Easter, during which time we could come by ourselves (without my mom) for a longer visit with my dad, we came returned to Ohio. Unfortunately, my brother was murdered within a month of that trip, so my return to West Virginia turned out to be, not for a return visit to see my dad, but for my brother’s funeral instead.

So I never got to see either of them alive after that one trip, and I only found out my father had died (but not when,) when my mom finally got around to telling me late that Summer – just about 43 years ago today. And to this date, I don’t even know where he was buried.

But I still think this song, from that draft post, is an appropriate way to close…

I want ice water.

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8 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Dad…

  1. Those you grew up around we’re made of “Sterner Stuff”? What the Hell is “Sterner Stuff”? I have never been impressed or trusting of “Sterner Stuff”. Maybe “Thick Skin” masquerades “Sterner Stuff”. You just can’t pierce that “Thick Skin” to find out if there is any “Soul” inside.


    • You summed it up quite well with your last sentence Phillip. In the sub-culture I grew up in, the men were so focused on their “macho” images that revealing anything like a softer side was tantamount to social suicide!


  2. Great tribute, when I first read the paragraph about star wars I was almost expecting ‘I’m your father luke’ video 😉

    But what a disgrace that yr mom never actually mentioned yr fathers death until some time had passed.
    Great song to finish off with…


    • Thanks my friend. Actually, the clip I had in the draft post was a much longer one of Yoda’s efforts to get Luke past his fears… The Beach Boys song is what I had in the draft, but the one I should have posted is this one:

      It’s been playing in my head ever since, including this morning when I woke up!


  3. It is heartbreaking, the cruelty of not telling you of your fathers passing. As to the ‘sterner stuff’ this has always been a mask, it doens’t really mean anything other than our fathers and theirs before them were incapable of demonstrating emotional vulnerability for fear of showing weakness. This my friend is not something they should have been proud of, it crippled entire generations of men and boys.


    • What I didn’t mention in the post is that the reason for my mom’s impatience during the visit (and the probable reason for her reluctance to bring up my dad’s death later) was the presence of her boyfriend – the very one my sister had helped her move from West Virginia to get away from!

      As for men being “incapable of demonstrating emotional vulnerability for fear of showing weakness,” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my own attempt to live that way was the reason for my eventual breakdown. Even to this day, there isn’t one member of my family, male or female, that isn’t ashamed of the fact that I eventually did.

      In my answer to Rincewind’s comment, I posted the song I probably should have closed this post with. Here is the song, from that same album, that expresses most what holding all that crap in feels like:


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