That’s Life

Why do parents who were young during WWII seem to have lived more impassioned lives when seen through the eyes of their children? What romance they must have lived! What clarity and purpose they had! Wars were fought and won, children were bred and born, homes were set up and run, industry was established and conquered. To us it is the stuff of epic movies. To them that was life, and it went on. 

DadPortrait

 In a memoir which he wrote in his 70s, my Dad tells lively stories revealing his intrepid love for life and a determination to have fun despite being a hungry child during the Depression and a shy young man entering adulthood during the war. His adventures, detailed from his boyhood on the Mississippi to old age in our small town in Michigan, are all written simply and well, with his hard-earned, innate capacity to see the struggling humanity in everyone.

Dad wanted to be a pilot in WWII  and fly an A20, a cool low level attack bomber. After training for weeks for a shot at getting into the Army Air Corps, fate (or luck) intervened, and he was rejected because of simple hay fever. Still determined to fly, Dad became a private pilot at age 18, soaring low and slow over Wisconsin in a J-3 Cub.

Cub

In college when he wanted to be an architect, he was simultaneously failing math, so he switched majors and became a radio engineer. Again, this made all the difference in his life. It was the era of the big bands.

Dad lived with the sounds of big band music and jazz as his personal soundtrack . It anchored his life, always in the background like the indelible blue smoke hanging in a dance club. He loved music and it loved him back, giving him years of fun and work as a young man, and hours of pleasure as an audiophile when old age set him on the couch. At the end of the day, if he couldn’t find a local station that played his music he’d fiddle with the AM radio trying to pull in a station from Canada that still played the big bands and had an announcer who knew ” what the hell he was talking about!”

frank

After Dad died I took a few of his old albums from the stereo cabinet as mementos, specifically Frank. As in Sinatra. At the Sands. Because of this album, which I heard as a child on Sunday afternoons, I made sure to stay at the Sands on a business trip in the 80’s, before it was torn down.

Carefully setting the disc onto my husband’s old turntable, Frank’s voice saturated the air of our old wooden house with the rich seamless tones and crackling effervescence that only vinyl can emit. Even my young daughter noticed the unusually full sound as it soaked into us that afternoon, igniting our imaginations of that legendary night in Las Vegas with Dino, Sammy, jokes, drinks, smoke, perfume and song. When Frank sang, he filled the house. 

Dad’s birthday rolls around later this month. I can still see him sitting in the basement reading, eating popcorn and listening to his favorite music with his big headphones on, reminiscent of his radio days and the era of living mightily, yet humbly. 

Here’s to you Dad.


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This entry was posted in Children, Dad, Fearless Living, Happiness, Parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to That’s Life

  1. Another great one, Mimi. I love that photo of Dad — just looked at my own copy of it a few days ago.

  2. MartyW47 says:

    Great Post Mimi! It was a different time that’s for sure… I think that living through WWI & WWII made significant changes on all the societies involved and those that weren’t as well. People during those times were much more dependent upon each other for news and entertainment. Beyond what the soldiers went through people at home had to scramble to find basic necessities or do without. They knew what it meant to sacrifice for the greater good. There’s nothing like staring death in the face to give you a sense of what life’s really about. There were no Cellphones, Internet or TV and the radios back then were as big as a TV today! 😉 So they were more socialized, going to the movies was common, going down to the bar, corner store, malt shop, barber shop or greasy-spoon where-ever other people were to exchange news and other information. They were also more religious attending church not only on Sunday (or whatever the sabbath was) but they also went there for even more social functions. These days people tend to sit mindlessly in front of their TV until bedtime and repeat it all the next day and the day after etc.

    • Thankyou Marty. I think it is true that people could sacrifice for the greater good. That sure sounds like my parents. And they never complained about it. It was just what you did. I also think there was a sense of independence. I think my dad expressed himself as himself and made his own opportunities. Too bad I took out the part about him playing golf in the snow on cross country skis. He was a creative guy!

  3. MartyW47 says:

    LMAO! Ski golf! Shhhhh it’ll catch on! Yes without all the luxuries afforded to us these days people made up a lot of their own entertainment… Your Dad definitely sounds like He was one heck of a great guy!

  4. Jim Foulkes says:

    Glad the old turntable still works. The LP’s still have a richness that is undeniable.

  5. Kris says:

    So sweet and a beautiful tribute to your Dad. Thanks for including the clips of Frank – rich and wonderful!

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