15 miserable years

Bread line in New York City in the 1930s.

The last year and a half have been unpleasant due to the Kung Flu and political conflicts. And then I think of my parents’ generation. A year and a half would have been a godsend for them.

Their bad times were immeasurably worse, and they lasted 15 years, not our measly (so far) 18 months.

We have a pandemic that’s affecting fewer people than one would think, thanks to modern mass communication and the ratings-mad news media. The political situation, in my opinion, is worse if you consider the long-term.

In Mexico, we have a doofus demagogue who can hardly speak correctly. In the United States you have a senile old codger propped up by an oligarchy. In Canada, there is a metrosexual, politically correct fop of a prime minister who’s in office entirely for being good-looking and having his father’s name.

But all of this is a walk in the proverbial park compared to what my parents endured. First a decade of the Great Depression and then five years of world war. So far we have it mighty good. What’s down the line is another matter, but count your blessings. You’re not in a blocks-long bread line or lying dead on Omaha Beach.

1944: The sad casualties of war — husbands, fathers and sons.

Tale of two births

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Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

MY WIFE AND I entered the world in very different times, places and circumstances.

The top shot is where I debuted on the morning of 30 August 1944 at 4:23 a.m. I reportedly kept my mother sweating and hollering for hours, but she finally pushed me out.

World War II was still in progress. Hitler and Mussolini were still alive. Napoleon was not.

The hospital’s name was Crawford W. Long Memorial. It’s still in Atlanta, but it’s now Emory University Hospital.

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A street in Uruapan, Michoacán.

This is where my child bride entered the world on 22 September 1960. The Hippie Era had not begun, but it would not be long in coming. Hitler and Mussolini were dust.

This is not a hospital, as you can plainly see. It is where her family lived. I took the photo about two years ago, but I imagine it didn’t look much different in 1960.

She was born at home, delivered by her father who was a surgeon and family practice physician.

This house in Uruapan, Michoacán, was both home to the family, and it housed Dad’s medical office too.

Yes, the two of us entered the world in very different times, places and circumstances, but we ended up together.

The Goddess works in mysterious ways.

Southern Roots

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Florida, 1961. Father on left, me in middle, friend on right.*

MY FATHER was born in North Georgia on the edge of Atlanta during the First World War.

I was born in Atlanta during the Second World War. My father’s parents were born around 1890, which means I am just two family generations south of the Victorian Age.

My father’s parents’ parents were born shortly after the end of the Civil War. I’m not sure where, probably North Georgia. If they were not born there, they moved there.

My father was an arrowhead collector, a newspaperman, an excellent writer and poet, a boozer who shunned coffee and tobacco, and he wasn’t much of a father either.

For a while, he was a chicken farmer. He was drafted into the U.S. Army late in the Second World War and sent to Korea on a troop ship. He didn’t like that one little bit.

Yes, he was in Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War, which came later. He never fired a shot at anyone, and nobody ever shot at him. He was a typist.

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1987

The war ended, and Uncle Sam shipped him back to Georgia. He never traveled anywhere again if he had anything to say about it.

He was not an adventurer.

As I said, he wasn’t much of a father. He had no interest, and it showed. About the only things that interested him were my mother, booze, writing and arrowheads.

He died in Atlanta of a heart attack in 1991. Coincidentally, he was lying in a hospital bed due to some unrelated issue, and was on the verge of being discharged.

He died just moments after brusquely hanging up the phone. He was talking to me. I had called.

He had not called me, of course. He never wrote me a letter in his entire life. He never wrote my sister either.

Those were pre-email days.

Minutes later, my sister phoned to say he was dead.  Age 75, three years older than I am now.

It was Mother’s Day.

I didn’t much like him, but I am just like him. I look like him. I think like him. I sound like him. I think I was a better father, but my daughter might tell you otherwise.

I did make an effort. He never made an effort.

He and I both stopped drinking in our early 50s, but for both of us the damage had already been done, irreparably.

My father was a lifelong leftist. He had witnessed Pinkertons shooting at strikers during the 1930s. For most of my life, I was a leftist too, as was all our family.

Unlike him and the others, I wised up late in life.

Will our many similarities include dying at 75? I hope not because I’m having way too much fun.

* * * *

(Note:  The inimitable Jennifer Rose recently noted the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death. This got me to thinking about my father, which led to the above. I wrote about my mother after she died at 90 in 2009.)

* The lad on the right in the photo is John Zimmerman. We were good friends. He went on to become a pilot in the Vietnam War and later a captain for a major airline. He sent me this photo a few years ago when we reconnected on Facebook.