Here's the post:
|The last neighborhood in Brooklyn where my father lived|
July of 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.
My love of history, which love I share with my late father, 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 Father's Day, wherever you are, Dad.