Dad was 95 yesterday. We gathered in the afternoon, bearing pizza, lasagna, chocolate cake and a great-granddaughter. Everybody talked at once, which is usual. Mike provided candles in the shapes of numbers 9 and 5 – we talked about changing them around to read 56, but didn’t. So there were not 95 candles, but the candles we had Dad blew out and some of us mumbled through something like the birthday song. The sun was shining and it was good, except for a couple people who have been in the hospital.
Dad told me once that my great-grandfather was the oldest man in Johnson by the time he passed on. That was a different twip of the family tree, but old age is no stranger in our crew. Of course no one says “Old Age” any more –seniors and elders abound, but hardly any old age folks. I’m not sure if this is a great idea or not – I myself have no real guidelines as to whether I am actually old or not. I am at an age where supposedly I am more prone to the flu and so on. Dad is not the oldest person in town, but I don’t think anyone pays any attention to that any more. There are much more interesting facts about people than their ages.
Dad is slower than he used to be when he moves, but he is still keen and funny and involved. He reads many books through a state program of recorded books, and traces through his mail and news magazines with an electronic viewer. He really keeps up on things, and tells me about the books he recommends and why. I am behind on the list of biography and history he thinks I would like, and feel kind of amazed at being left behind. Maybe I am the older! It is wonderful to have these conversations that go back years.
Sometimes I ask him about what happened when he was in the South Pacific. He has always told us the sillier stories – a guy who showed them all how to make moonshine with ingredients liberated from the cooks. Or about a shell he forgot in his Jeep that rotted in the hot sun and made the Jeep very putrid for a while. Trying to drive his landing transport up on to a beach between a red buoy and a green one. It sounded workable, but both of his buddies were colorblind, and Dad was down under the dash and couldn’t see! They got there, but it was a bit problematic. He told about waiting in line for an hour in the hot sun to get a warm soda that someone had provided. He said it tasted great, even if it was warm and stale.
But Mom taught us not to ask in case it stirred up bad memories. So I didn’t. But after reading some of the books he suggested, I thought I’d ask, because I didn’t want to give him the impression I didn’t care about the role he played in the Greatest Generation. He said sure, so as two older adults we took our conversations to a new level.
Last year we were able to connect with Quilts of Valor and get him a handmade quilt with lots of red, white, and blue presented with due honor and respect. That was a special birthday for sure. But I this one with kids, grandkids, great granddaughter was special, too. Love and gratitude and fun and remembering – should I live to be the oldest person in town, I hope I still enjoy these wonderful gifts of age. Love you, Dad.