My father turns 94 today. He's still in pretty good shape - great shape for someone his age. His mind is sharp, he gets around without help, and he's still enjoying life.
Every so often I stop and think about how his life intertwines with history. He was born in 1917, the youngest of 13 children. He lost five siblings in the 1918 flu epidemic. He grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, in a house with no electricity or running water. Light was provided by oil lamps. Water came from a well and hand pump in the back yard, which was next to the single-seat outhouse. His father, uncles, and older brothers were all coal miners. After watching them grow stooped and old before their time from working on their hands and knees hundreds of feet underground, and dying of black lung disease, Dad decide to take another path.
He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps at the age of 16. He entered the service in 1940, one year before Pearl Harbor. He landed at Normandy and was later wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. When he got out of the hospital he transitioned to the Army Air Force, which in 1947 became the U.S. Air Force. He participated in the Berlin Airlift, one of the first confrontations of the Cold War. Then came Korea and Viet Nam, followed by retirement from military service.
But that didn't mean retirement. He worked as a post office letter carrier for the next 20+ years, getting up in the wee hours and going to work every day, regardless of 'rain or sleet or snow or gloom of night.' Did I mention that he had a walking route, complete with 20-30 pound bag of mail slung over his shoulder? But he came home every day with a smile on his face (often because of a stop on the way at the local ice house).
After his second retirement he and my mother traveled around the country in an old pick-up with a drop-in camper. They were devoted to each other throughout 60 years of marriage, until Mom passed a couple of years ago. Now Dad lives in a small apartment in a senior living facility (definitely NOT a nursing home or rest home). He and a bunch of the other old farts there hang out, tell stories, and have a tipple or two. He's still enjoying life.
So Happy Birthday to the man who taught me so many things - how to throw a baseball, how to drive a stick shift, how to sweep the girls off their feet - but most of all how to be a man, in the truest sense of the word.
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