Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Der Alte...

Turns ninety today. Our relations have been, oh my, fraught for almost sixty years, but he is a survivor, an irascible survivor, and I pay tribute to my onlie living true begettor. He’s been one of life’s hungry men since his childhood: hungry for adventure, hungry for advancement, hungry for information, hungry for knowledge. The picture above was taken when he was about twenty, shortly after he joined the merchant marine to see the world. A few weeks later there was a dust-up at Pearl Harbor, and just a day before transfers out of the merchant marine were frozen for the duration he jumped to the Marine Corps, and stormed across the South Pacific from Guadalcanal until he very nearly perished in the course of the Guam landings in July 1944 (interestingly, among the Navy physicians waiting offshore was James V. McNulty, who was the attending OB/GYN in Los Angeles as I spilled into the world a little over eight years later).

Along with my mother, my dad passed along to all his children a love of reading that stood us in good stead as many of our cohort were hypnotized by TV. Because the 1950s middle class strove to improve itself (rather than racing, as the remains of that class appear to me in my own late middle age, to conform to a lewd, violent and vulgar popular culture), he subscribed to a series of classical music “great performances,” delivered by mail on LPs, and these formed, together with the Broadway musicals for which I’ve never lost a taste, and the “American songbook” standards I came subsequently to rediscover, the basis for my own musical re-education beginning in about 1972.

Our relations have been intermittently difficult over the years, and it is quite certain that neither of us will live long enough for a meeting of minds regarding the President (I’m fer; he’s agin) or half-term Governor Palin (he thinks she’s swell; I think she’s, well...). That doesn’t matter. I wish I’d understood years earlier the importance he places on his opinions eliciting respect (not necessarily actual agreement) from his children because they’re his opinions. I would not have persisted so loudly or so long in dissenting.

So, happy birthday, Dad. You’ve outlasted the rest of your initial family by decades, and I hope that you continue with all due vigor past the C-mark. You have passed on your insatiable intellectual curiosity demonstrably down two and likely three generations. Your sons and daughter will all gather this weekend at Sis’ house to lavish tribute upon you.