July 31, 2012
My father’s 93rd birthday is next month. He has lived nearly an entire century. My dad is without a doubt one of the strongest people I’ve ever known; he has a story for every situation because he’s experienced almost every situation. Growing up during the Great Depression and having lost his own father to pneumonia when he was only 14 years old, my father has known hunger, homelessness and hard work.
He’s in pretty good physical shape; make that, great physical shape. His sight has faded almost to black, and his short-term memory has gone along with it. The odd thing is, he can sit and tell us with razor-sharp clarity about things that happened 70 or more years ago. I can truly say that he has forgotten more than I will probably ever know.
For about a year now, Dad has lived in an assisted living facility. It didn’t take him long to figure out the social ins and outs of the place, and he shares them with us often. For instance, he’s convinced that every woman in the place is out to trap him into a marriage. My father is a rarity; it seems that in the 90-plus age bracket, women outnumber men about 100 to 1.
Too, he’s figured out which residents he needs to beat down to the dining room, because they eat all the best foods first. He always eats at Table 11, and he eats with the nicest couple. Every meal. Heaven help you if you should go into the dining room and sit at Table 11, or sit with the nice couple. His boat will be rocked for days.
My siblings and I will throw Dad a party next month, and he will choose the dinner he always chooses because it’s his absolute favorite: The Varsity. He’ll eat two chili dogs and onion rings and birthday cake. And no matter what gifts we get him to commemorate 93 years on this planet, the meal from The Varsity and the company of his children will be his favorite things.
I’m looking forward to Dad’s birthday party. And when it’s over, we can look forward to 94. He is the last of a dying breed, the last of a generation made great by strong families, a sterling work ethic, undying patriotism and even hunger and want. Even in a wheelchair, he’s a strong man.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in Fall 2012.