I had such big plans for the first week of March, 2012. Between the first and the fifth, My Dad and Mom would celebrate their 80th birthdays and I would hit the half century mark. This was to be a milestone week for the three of us.
Well, life always seems to have a way of humbling us. In fact, someone once said, “You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!”
Unless something happens in the next few hours, Dad and I will hit our milestones. The celebration, however, won’t be quite the same. Mom didn’t make it.
Our Good and Gracious Lord called Mom home about 16 months ago. While she is not physically with us, our minds are with her often. She still makes us smile, we share a tear with her whenever we hear one of her favorite spiritual hymns, and we will always tip a pint to her on St. Patrick’s Day.
To celebrate Dad’s 80th, after a little prodding, I got him to share some of the memories associated with him turning 80.
Greg: Did you ever think you would make it to 80? I know there was a point when none of us thought you would. Bill: I first started having heart problems when I was 52. Greg: Crap! I’m 50! Bill: Back then I guess I thought I might make it to sometime in my 60s. Greg: So, how did you do it? Bill: I just stayed on top of my health issues. My advice to others? “Don’t be afraid to go see the doctor.”
Greg: What’s your first memory? Bill: I really don’t have just one, but I do remember growing up in Hoisington, Kansas in the 1930s and 1940s. Back then, kids could do anything. We rode our bikes all over Central Kansas. We spent the summer days riding, swimming in ponds, and shooting bb guns. I loved it!
Greg: Why did you get an education? Bill: After I got out of the service, I was working on a construction crew that was building a sub-station. We had to mix cement, and then take it up several floors. It was hot. It was hard work. I was sitting up there one day and said to myself, “There has got to be something better than this.” Note: Bill went on to graduate from the University of Kansas, and then spent his entire professional career working in the front office of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Topeka, Kansas. Greg: Are you still a Jayhawk? Bill: Of course! You know they just won their eighth straight league basketball championship. Greg: Didn’t you see the photo I took of your great grandson celebrating the win over Missouri?
Greg: Best vacation you ever took? Bill: The time Mom and I went to see Diane and Katy in San Diego. Then we drove the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to San Francisco. We stopped at the Hearst Castle, went sailing to Sausalito on your mom’s cousin’s yacht, saw the Golden Gate Bridge. That was great, but there were a lot of other great trips as well.
Greg: Besides Mom, who was the most beautiful woman you have ever seen? Bill: My high school chemistry partner was just beautiful, like a model. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing and mixed water with acid in a chem lab. It bubbled over and ruined her dress…probably ruined my chances with that move. Years later, I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming and looked up. There she was – a pin up girl on a calendar on the wall. I tried to tell a guy there that I knew her, but I don’t think he believed me.
Greg: Favorite saying? Bill: “I may not be a great judge of beauty, but I know ugly when I see it!” I actually stole that from a family friend….chuckle, chuckle. I’ve heard you use it many times…chuckle, chuckle.
Greg: If you were on death row, and had one last meal, what would you order? Bill: Macaroni and cheese. Greg: Really? Bill: I do like macaroni and cheese, but it would probably be prime rib and a twice baked potato. Greg: Desert? Bill: A piece of cake or a slice of pie. Any cake. Any pie. I do like my cake and pie, but I can’t eat either anymore because of my diabetes.
Greg: Okay, last question. Best advice for young people? Bill: Respect your elders. Period.
As I am now basically 50, I must admit my admiration for that piece of advice is beginning to make a lot of sense. Happy Birthday, Pop! Happy Sailing, Mom! On behalf of all your children and grand children – we love you both.