November is a busy month in our family. In addition to Thanksgiving, we celebrate several birthdays, not the least of which is my father's.
This month, my father will be 86 years old. My dad has lived an active, exciting life. He spent his childhood playing stick-ball in the streets of the Bronx, pitching pennies, making snow forts, and mischievously earning himself a reputation as a tough, little fellow. As a teenager, he built a name for himself on the neighborhood ball fields. "Lefty," as he was known, grew up to play semi-pro baseball. He played throughout the south, road the rails across the country, got into a scrap or two. Dad served in WWII, saw action in Biak and Hollandia. He later met Annie Duffy, the love of his life, and traded his carefree days for marriage and a steady paycheck, and raised two daughters in a neat, colonial house on Staten Island.
My Dad more than fulfilled his stated purpose in life, to be a good husband and father. He valued family life more than anything else, lovingly provided for his family's needs, and safely delivered his two daughters from the mayhem of youth. He stood beside my mother in good times and in bad, in health and in sickness, and held her hand until the good Lord took her home. He's the best of grandfathers. Because of him, my sons have a wealth of memories…Grandpa pulling them in their little, red wagon, or collecting seashells with them in the early mornings on the beach; Grandpa whipping up his famous mashed potatoes, or as my youngest says, elevating French toast to an "art form." My dad gave my kids pockets full of "which hand" candy surprises, lazy afternoons watching trains rumble by, and a warm, safe lap from which to dream little boy dreams. In years to come, such seemingly ordinary moments will emerge sweet memories, firmly rooted in love and family, that will tug at my children's heartstrings. I know because I have my own treasured memories of a childhood with my Dad. We weren't wealthy, but I was a privileged child. Dad made us rich in every way that counts.
Thank you, Daddy! And Happy Birthday! I'll always love you!
Anne Mikolay, a former pre-kindergarten teacher, is a free-lance writer and artist residing in Middletown with her husband, her two teenage sons, and her little chihuahua. Her books, Christmas at Stone Creek, historical fiction set in pre-civil war Pennsylvania, and Santa Eats Pizza for Breakfast, written for children, are available on amazon.com, or through her website, www.annemikolay.com.