Saturday, September 6, 2008
Happy Birthday Dad
My father John, (he's the cowboy, and the clown is his younger brother Pete) was a freshman in college when he approached his father Anthony to ask if he would co-sign a loan so my father could purchase his first car. Anthony replied, "No". (And with good reason, too, for my father was not always the most reliable of young men, and lacked a certain maturity that his father wished for him to have.) Now, this was not the answer my father had hoped for, and in fact he was so ticked off at his father, that out of spite he did the one thing that he knew would hurt his greek immigrant father the most; he quit collage, and joined the army, crushing his fathers dreams of seeing his first born son graduate from college.
John was sent to Germany, where he spent his time deciphering morse-code and getting into trouble. He was court marshaled twice. Once for getting into a bar brawl, (the scar under his one eye is a result of that fight) and once for stealing someone's raincoat, (someone had stolen his first.)
While in the army, John received word that his father had died. Anthony was a captain in the Civil Air Patrol and while flying his plane on a search and rescue mission one very foggy day, he became disoriented and crashed into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Upon returning home, John discovered that his father had left him with a choice, the family restaurant or $25,000. John took the money, and immediately enrolled in college. And that is where he stayed for the rest of his life, first working under Milton Eisenhower at Johns Hopkins University, (where he arrange for Dr. Martin Luther King to come and speak) then later moving to Pennsylvania where he became a vice president of one liberal arts college, and later the president of another, (where he transformed a run down neglected college into one of the top small liberal arts colleges on the east coast) and where I believe he spent the happiest days of his life.
My father died almost six years ago from a very rare form of leukemia. Before he died he made a pilgrimage trip of sorts to his fathers island of Chios. If he were alive today, it would be his 74th birthday. My father loved acting and the theatre, classical music, literature, history, and collecting art. He considered every man his equal and his friend. Once when I was a young girl a friend of his talked him into going hunting. He shot a dove. I watched him when he came home. He stood by the sink, holding the dove in the palms of his hands, and he began to weep. He explained to me what he had done, and how remorseful he was. Then he cleaned the bird, cooked the bird, and forced himself to eat it to insure that it did not die in vain. He never picked up a gun again.
Happy Birthday Dad, I love you and miss you.