Today, on this so-easy-even-a-blogger-can-remember date of 11-11-11, my dad turns 81 years old.
Even as a child the irony of his birthday falling on Veterans Day wasn’t lost on me. My dad is one of those über-patriotic guys. Not a loud chest-thumper, always bellowing that America is the greatest nation, but a quiet man who stands a bit taller when a parade flag passes by and isn’t ashamed of the tear that threatens to slip out.
He doesn’t believe wearing a flag pin — and demonizing those who don’t — makes you a true American. But he does believe those who enlist in the military are stronger, braver and better Americans than the rest of us.
One of his greatest disappointments — still — is that he was never able to enlist. Being born in 1930 meant he was too young for WWII and by the time Korea came around, he was married with a couple of kids, so I never grew up in a military household. It was with considerable surprise when first one, then the other of my sons joined the Navy. Suddenly we’ve become a military family.
That makes my dad exceedingly proud. My youngest son happened to be home on leave last year at this time when we had a big blow-out for Dad’s 80th birthday. I told my son the best present he could give his grandpa was to show up in his dress whites.
Dad, of course, dons his kilt for all important occasions. You know, weddings, 80th birthdays, Robbie Burns Day, and when he gets his car serviced.
I’m glad Dad didn’t have his kilt when I graduated from college because I doubt I would have looked this happy.
He, on the other hand, would still be beaming because education is something he values. Even though he can’t quite master his computer, he continues to learn oodles of other stuff by attending classes, reading and traveling.
Among the other great joys in Dad’s life are, in no particular order: dogs, coffee, Ireland, poetry, butcher shops, reciting ‘Ode to a Haggis’ in full Scottish burr, his old Royal typewriter, Garrison Keillor stories, chili cookoffs, Western art, the perfect martini, fishing, Toastmasters, and Norman Rockwell.
He used to give Rockwell presentations to elementary school kids. His favorite illustrations to discuss with them were the ones with kids and the ones that told a story. You know, all of them.
So, today I just wanted to take a minute to give a little shout-out to Dad and to my Navy guys on this Veterans Day 2011. None of them are veterans, but they are patriots. And one of them is a really great Dad who taught me to fish … appreciate music, literature and art … try new and exotic foods … and to cry at parades.
Thanks, Dad. And Happy Birthday.