Today would have been my father's 93rd birthday. Although its been 8 years since he passed away, some days it feels like yesterday, and other days it seems so long ago. I don't often observe the day that my parents died, but I do find myself celebrating the day of their birth. I just find it a more positive experience for me. My dad had a lot of quirks, he used to whistle to himself often, he liked to recite the 99th Psalm while driving, and he once freaked out when he caught me reading Harold Robbins in high school (he thought it was too mature for me.)
I was thinking about my father recently since we were talking at the brunch about our parents and their attitude towards travel, particularly European travel. I forgot sometimes that for my parents generation, traveling particularly abroad, wasn't the norm the way it is now. If people traveled at all, it was to see relatives or certain sights maybe like Niagara Falls. For the most part, when people had leisure time, they probably went down by the shore. Jetting off to the Carribbean at a moment's notice wasn't done.
Whenever, I expressed a desire to see the world, my father would look at me as if I were crazy. "They have slums in Europe," he would always tell me. As if that was the reason I wanted to go France, to see the slums! (Hmm, Notre Dame, check, the Louvre, check, the Arc de Triomphe, check, on to the slums. I'm just dying to know how the French build their projects. Do they decorate with fleur de lis on each floor?) Of course, my father's experience of Europe was with a gun in his hand liberating Paris. No lying on the beach in the South of France for him. Now he had to wade a shore with his gun over his head, while Germans fired at him, during the invasion of Southern France.
That was his Europe, which was not the one that I was going to experience 40 years later. I think after my Dad's trip to Europe and the Far East, courtesty of Uncle Sam, all he wanted to do was sit on the couch for the next 60 years. I once told him all the countries I hoped to visit before I died, and he assumed that meant I didn't want to get married or have children! I had to explain to him that it was actually possible to do both, and that families nowadays often traveled to Europe together.
My dad's time in Europe wasn't all hiding under tanks and in trenches, digging roads, getting hit over the head by a German soldier. He actually managed to take the time to take photographs while he was there (I'm sure he also found some time to romance the mademoiselles as well, at least according to my mother). I have tiny little pictures that almost look like postcards of the Arc de Triomph, the Pope's palace in Avignon and other sites. At some point when I get a scanner, I'll have to post them.
My interest in WWII is totally because of my dad, even though he refused to tell me more than just the sketchiest bit about his time there (for example I had no idea that he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge until after he died), he seemed to feel that there were just some things you don't tell daughters, plus it can't have been a great experience being part of a segregated army, and fighting a war. I often wonder if he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome from some of the things that his experienced.
I was quite proud that I was able to list my dad and my uncle at the WWII Registry of Remembrances that is part of the WWII war memorial in DC. My dad gave me a lot of great things, my work ethic, my love of reading, being a pack rat, and my early onset gray hair (restored to its dark reddish brown luster thanks to Miss Clairol), along with my dark eyes, and for that I will always love and appreciate him.
I miss you Daddy.