Thursday, November 26, 2015
Thanksgiving, 1952, 2015
This is one of my favorite family pictures--ever. I've posted it on Facebook now and then, but here it is again, in all its glory.
Amarillo Air Force Base. Amarillo, Texas. 1952. My dad had been called back to active duty because of the Korean War, but before he was shipped out, the Pentagon decided to re-open AAFB, and Dad, who was living with us in Enid, Okla., at 1709 East Broadway Ave., was only 268 miles away from 4242 West 13th St. in Amarillo, the little brick house where we would move in 1952. (Thank you, Google Maps.) Dad was a chaplain; the base needed one.
Time for a coincidence: Years later, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Joyce and I were taking graduate English courses at Kent State University. One of our favorite professors was Dr. Sanford Marovitz. Years after that (we'd stayed in touch with him)--in the 2000s--we were having dinner with him and his wife when he told us that he'd served in the Air Force during the Korean War--and had been stationed at AAFB. He didn't remember Dad, but still ...
As a kid, I liked it that Dad was in the Air Force. It gave me street cred. He had stayed in the Reserves after WW II, and I liked seeing him in his summer khaki uniform, his winter dark blue uniform. I remember him as a Captain, then Major, then Lt. Col. (the rank at which he retired). And I really loved going out to the air base--it was Vance AFB in Enid. I remember thinking, We belong on this base as the sentries would wave us through.
Occasionally, we would go out to one of the bases to hear Dad preach (not my favorite thing to do, I'll confess--but we do have a 78 rpm recording of one of those sermons); occasionally--as the picture shows--we would go out to the base for a meal (couldn't beat the price).
Let's go L-R around the table: little brother, Davi, who had just turned 4; Mom, who had just turned 33; Dad, who was 39; older brother, Dickie, who would turn 11 in about a month; Danny, who had just turned 8. Dickie, by the way, hated sitting in the position where you see him--not because he didn't want to be next to Dad, whom he loved, but because he was left handed and wanted more ... room for his eating maneuvers. I'll have to admit that I liked jumping into the seat he craved before he got there. Ah, brothers!
Davi seems a little alarmed by the camera flash; Mom is smiling (another picture!); Dad looks ... professional, though focused on his food; Dickie seems to be eating with both hands; I, as usual, have my mouth full of bread. I now bake my own, as many of you know, and stuff myself with it all the time.
We look happy, don't we? We were. Mom would soon be starting back to school to get her teaching credential, a passport to what turned out to be a wonderful professional career for her. Dad was probably not thrilled to have been yanked back into the service (he'd been teaching at Phillips Univ. in Enid), but Dad believed deeply in service, in his country. I never heard him complain about it, and serving in the USAF was among the things he was most proud of. He wanted to make sure it was on his gravestone. It is. Dickie, already loving classical music, is probably somewhat annoyed about the Muzak that was surely playing in the background, but he also seems fixed on his food. I just noticed that he somehow got away without wearing a tie, an escape that I clearly did not manage to pull off. Davi is probably enjoying the thought that during the school year he is the only son still at home with Mommy. Dickie and I head off to Avondale Elementary every day.
I'm probably thinking about bread--and about the dessert that will soon arrive. I'm hoping for lots of whipped cream (as, I'm sure, were my dad and Dickie).
Four of us are still alive. We lost Dad right after Thanksgiving, 1999. November 30. He'd had a long, slow, agonizing decline. Cane, walker, wheelchair (he was deadly in his motorized one), bed. It took years. Mom just turned 96 in September and is fiercely hanging onto life, now residing in an assisted-living place in Lenox, Mass. Dickie lives in Dorchester, Mass., with Phil and is very happy. (I assume he gets to sit at the table where he chooses now!) He's been retired for awhile from the Boston Globe, where he was the music critic for decades. He still has many freelance gigs, though. Davi still works for the business he started many years ago--the Winthrop Group--an enterprise that writes corporate histories. He's all over the world, still. He tried university teaching after completing his Ph.D. at Harvard, but he didn't really like it. And moved on. He's married to Janice, who taught in the Harvard Business School for years, and they have twins, Rick and Bella, now in their mid-twenties.
And I? I retired from thirty years of teaching middle school in Aurora, Ohio. Then I retired again after ten more years at Western Reserve Academy. I loved teaching, first day to last. (I might still be doing it if I didn't have to grade papers--and if the standardized-test craze would dissipate!) Joyce and I married late in 1969 and will celebrate anniversary number 46 in a few weeks. She is finishing her amazing career teaching writing at Hiram College--and is nearing the end of her decade-long project, a book about John Brown. We have a son, Steve, born in July 1972. He teaches part-time at the University of Akron, works for Innovation Ohio (Education Policy Consultant), and in January will commence a four-year term on the city council in Green, Ohio, where they live. A wonderful daughter-in-law, Melissa, who teaches in the College of Nursing at KSU. And two grandsons, Logan (10) and Carson (6), who are two distinct varieties of spectacular.They'll all be over today at noon for turkey, et al.
I've been a fortunate man. A very fortunate man. I got to grow up in that family you see. Those parents, those brothers. I got to go to college, grad school. I met Joyce, fell in love immediately, somehow convinced her that being with me was a good idea. I had a career I adored. Since 1999 I've been publishing book reviews like mad (about 1500 of them in Kirkus Reviews and the Cleveland Plain Dealer)--although the PD gig is over because the paper recently decided to publish reviews only from the wire services. Yes, I have some health issues, but I can still do so many things I love--bake, read, write, go to movies and plays, work out a little bit, do whatever Joyce wants me to do.
And as for giving thanks? Well, I do that every day. Every single day.