Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Ten Decades Birthday

One hundred years ago today, my father was born.

July 14, 1914.  The world is on the brink of World War I, going through a series of crises, but no one knows how close to war the world is yet.  My father is too young to know.  He certainly doesn't know that the life expectancy for a male born in 1914 is only 52 years.  Or that the leading causes of death in 1914 included tuberculosis, influenza, and diarrhea.  Or that his one daughter would use something called the "Internet" one day to blog, and to pay tribute to him.

My father was born and grew up in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood called Brownsville.  My grandfather owned a candy store, which he ran with the help of his wife, my grandmother, and his six children.

In the 1930's, my father's mother died, from complications of high blood pressure, an illness so easily treated today.  My father ended up quitting high school after two years.

He doesn't have too much of an Internet presence, my father, but there are a couple of things I can find.  I looked at his record in the 1940 census, still living at home with his father and several siblings.  1942, his enlistment record in the United States Army, where his term of enlistment was for the duration of World War II "plus six months", show him as "single with dependents". I suspect one of the dependents was his younger brother, the only sibling still alive today.

The military experience shaped his life.  For the first time, he was out of Brooklyn. He saw the South.  He saw India.  He would sometimes tell me stories about his time in India as bedtime stories.

My father didn't make it to the end of the war.  He suffered a head injury and was flown back to the States.  He was given an honorable discharge but suffered the aftereffects of that injury for the rest of his life.

After the war, my father married.  When I was 12, my mother died, and my father raised me to adulthood as a single father in his Bronx apartment in a city housing project.

When his last sister died, in the mid 2000's, the funeral procession didn't go directly to the cemetery.  It wound through Brooklyn, going through some neighborhoods before it got on the highway. I wondered where we were going and why.  It didn't occur to me at the time that we were going near to where where she, and my father, had grown up. One final tribute.  My father had died almost twenty years before.

I owe a lot to my father and the simple, everyday lessons he taught me.  He did what he could the best he knew how. He ended his life in Brooklyn, in the same facility where his own father spent his last days.

I am participating in NaBloPoMo, a monthly blogging challenge.  This month's theme has been "Decades". I haven't been following the theme much, but it really got me to thinking how much our world has changed in the 100 years since my father was born.

And, how much the world has stayed the same.

Happy birthday wherever you are, Dad.


  1. That's a beautiful story. My father passed 10 years ago, he was very proud of his service in the Army. He too grew up in Brooklyn and his parents lived there when I was young girl. After they passed, we never spent any time in Brooklyn.
    I like how you tied the Decades theme into your post.

  2. What a lot of changes your dad saw, Alana. I hope he was able to share many of them with you. The world today is so different from the world a hundred years ago! It really boggles the imagination!

  3. Nice post! Best wishes on your father's birthday!

  4. I loved your tribute to your father. He must have been a good man and born at about the same time as my own father. I don't know why I haven't thought about the same thing in my own family. One hundred years ago, both my parents were born. Once, when I was younger and unthinking, my mother told me she was born in 1914 and I laughed--asked her if she was joking. It seemed so long ago. How the world has changed. I like to think I've changed with it--grown in understanding. Life was hard 100 years ago. Good effort on the theme of decade.

  5. Gosh, this was such a beautiful story Alana!
    I was really moved by this tribute!


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