Today is Father’s day and I wish to honor my father, Gene, who left this world 9 years ago at the age of 75.
My father was not perfect, by no means, but I have come to realize, what an awesome man he really was and how lucky my siblings and I were to have him and our mother. The two of them, were really great parents and did a bang up job raising their five children with real values and decency. I will be forever grateful for the lessons and guidance they provided
My parents were born in the 1920’s, both children of Polish immigrants…and that is where their similarities ended.
My mother was a child of privilege who never even realized a depression was going nor that many in her own community were suffering greatly. My father on the other hand, a member of that community…(though they didn’t meet until sometime later) was not as fortunate. He REALLY LIVED the Great Depression , and all the lessons of the time.
My father was born in 1927, the 2nd oldest of four children; he had 1 sister and 2 brothers. His older brother was the apple of his parent’s eye and his sister was their only daughter and thus was to be ‘protected’. His baby brother was sickly and thus, was treated with kid gloves.
My father’s dad, my grandfather was just a toddler when his parent’s brought him to the US in 1901. He was the eldest child of 8. He was tough man who went on to fight in WWI and came back quite a bit messed up.
My father’s mom was the youngest of 10 children. HER father was killed in a train accident at the turn of the century, while her mother was pregnant with HER. My grandmother’s mother, my great- grandmother was known as ‘Attila” as in “Attila the Hun”, as evidently she was tough as nails. When her husband was killed she received a settlement from the railroad, and used that money to start a business and ran that business successfully while raising 10 kids. (I suppose she had to be the way she was, considering the circumstances and the time!).
Anyway, my father’s parents were not exactly the most warm and fuzzy people you’ve ever met….as a matter of fact, they were brutal. My grandfather was a drunk, a philanderer and a gambler. According to family legend, he made life a living hell for his children. When the Depression hit, they were ill prepared to handle the economic realities they faced. My grandmother, evidently, was very skittish, afraid of her own shadow and never stood up for her children from their father’s diatribes and physical abuse.
Somehow, under these circumstances, my Father grew up to be such a kind and caring guy. He dropped out of school in the 8th grade to go to work to support his siblings, his older brother was not expected to make such sacrifices. Neither were his other siblings, as a matter of fact my father, was the one who made sure his baby brother went to the best schools and went to College. He did the same for his sister. She actually studied computer science back in the day! (Quite the feat for a woman of that time. ) Evidently, my grandparents didn’t think much of my father’s intellect and thus didn’t believe he was the one who ‘could make it through school’.
Little did they know, as quite honestly, he was the wisest person I’ve ever met. He didn’t talk much, he was very quiet actually, but that was because he was ALWAYS listening and learning. e
He was amazing in his temperament and how he could recall conversations in detail. In addition, he was always reading and ALWAYS interested in new concepts. Seriously, he had an uncanny ability to ‘read’ people and situations…9 times out of time, HE was right on the money about just about everything. It was unsettling at times.
He enlisted in the Army at 17, as WWII was coming to an end, and finished basic training shortly after VJ day. He ended up going to Germany as part of the occupation and served as a Sargent entrusted with taking prisoners of war, specifically the Nazis, to trail.
After he returned from his tour of duty, he met my mom through a mutual friend. He was quite smitten and proposed just 4 months later, they were married 5 months after that. ( They missed their 40ths anniversary by 2 months, as she didn’t make it.)
He had bought my spoiled mom, a very expensive ring ( I have the payment book and receipts to this day…and truly he overindulged BIG TIME). But she loved it…he always spoiled her. Whatever she wanted, he would try and get for her, HE really adored her and she loved him…truly. (My goodness…as I write this, I’m realizing…how they SPOILED ME…no wonders I think relationships should be a certain way…they showed me that!)
Uptown girl meets downtown boy. Truly that can be a great situation for their progeny…it’s the best of both worlds, as the kids get to learn culture and empathy.
They had it tough financially sometimes, and mom sometimes was not amused with their economic situation, but they worked through it together, often sacrificing for our sakes. I remember watching them dancing in the kitchen…or holding hands on the couch. Mind you that was AFTER they were married over 30 years! I was a menopause baby….I was born when they were in their mid 40’s, 20 years AFTER my eldest brother’s birth! (I like to pretend in MY mind, that THEY only had ‘those feelings for each other ‘ FIVE TIMES! …I don’t like to think of them being amorous…yuk!)
WE all grew up with a family, a home, rules and their love. They were always there for us and each other….when mom died, she died in his arms, after a 2 year battle with cancer. HE spent the next 12 years mourning his love….(side note…it got to be TOO much sometimes for US kids…as seriously…”WHO the hell was this saint he kept going on about”….WE had NEVER met THAT woman!!! J )
But seriously, MY family, my siblings and I, were very fortunate ….our parent’s loved us, loved each other, didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs or gamble. They provided us with a home, education, values, empathy, caring, love, a sense of duty, independence, a desire to learn, civic duty, family, and strength…seriously what more can you ask for from your parents?? While we were never financially wealthy, we are the richest family I know.
Dad, thank you for all you did and thank you and mom for raising as you did…I never realized how much I would really come to understand how great you both were.