20 years ago, I lost my father to cancer on a cold February morning. After opting for an operation with a 30% survival rate, he succumbed to the ravages and damages of his life. He was 73 years old.
The things he taught me are like the hairs on my head, too numerous to count.
He lived an amazing life, balanced between small triumphs and annoying failures, but all in all, amazing.
He was born one year after Prohibition started and women got the right to vote. His Chicago was a bit wild and wooly, a frontier town with a sophisticated edge, and he enjoyed most of it. When he was eight years old, Mickey Mouse, bubble gum and sliced bread were invented! He was ten years old when they adopted the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem, replacing God Bless America. Best excuse for not having the lyrics down pat, if you ask me!
Of all his achievements, he was proudest of being a pilot. It was bittersweet because he didn’t get to fly for the US in World War II or for an airline, but he owned a couple of planes and he flew some charters and cargo out of old Midway and Crestwood Airports.
He grew up through the Great Depression, where he learned that money couldn’t buy happiness, but no money meant no fun. So the list of his occupations is long and varied. He believed in the saying that if you do what you love, it isn’t work. But he was pragmatic too, he went where there was money as well as fun. To him, work had no class barriers. IF they gave you a paycheck – he’d try it for a while. He always said that you couldn’t eat fancy titles. So he was a lifeguard, photographer, undertaker, wielder, construction worker, sandhog, insurance salesman, mechanic (auto and aircraft), newspaper photo stringer (early version of paparazzi), electrical engineer, ham radio operator, commercial and sport fisherman, and some I don’t remember.
I miss him. The retailers and greeting card sellers don’t help. The barrage of advertising that starts the day after Mother’s Day is nails on a chalkboard for me. I’m damn happy it’s over now for a few months. Gives me time to stock up on tissues for next year.