Today would have been my Dad’s 97th birthday. A man who believed our world could address peace, he would be horrified at our current world state. As a young cadet at the University that is now Virginia Tech, a cadet by requirement then, he was called from school with his classmates to serve in Europe in WWII. Upon his return to college after the war, as a veteran, not having to be in the Cadet Corp, he met and married my Mom, lived on campus in an Airstream trailer park set up for returning vets who married. It was there that I came into their lives a month before he was to graduate. Class of 1943, actual graduation date, December 1947.
As an adolescent, my family joined my uncle and his family at an Conference Center in the mountains off the Shenandoah Valley and it started an annual pilgrimage to Shrine Mont until the year he passed from our lives at the age of 92. That trip often fell on the week of his birthday or the week following as it was always the first full week of August. Many birthday parties were held there with family and friends that gathered for a week each year. The August after his death, we as a family gathered again, toasted his life and the lives of the other’s from his generation that had gathered with us, all gone by then and we left his ashes in those mountains that he loved to hike.
The remaining children of that generation, when possible, continued the tradition and our children joining us at times. Baptisms, weddings, and memorials have been held in the outdoor stone chapel.
Not this year. The facility is operating on a limited scale, using only cottages with kitchens, families who can’t travel or visit for fear of passing or catching the pandemic virus are not able to join together this year. The 8 bedroom log cottage we shared not used because it doesn’t have a kitchen.
He stood proudly on those steps with his children, children in law, grandchildren, grandchildren in law, nieces and nephews. The last patriarch of that crew. We are much older now, but that is the last group photo I have from there and try as I might, I can’t place the year, maybe his 80th birthday so 17 years ago. A few of those people are gone, a lot more added. My stepmom is the Matriarch by marriage, I guess I am by birth, now only 7 years younger than he was in that picture.
I miss his wisdom, his wit, his corny jokes, his gentle, loving spirit. May he live on in all who loved him and all he loved.