I have stepped away from blogging for the past week to travel to Virginia and pay my last respects to my father, who passed away a week ago after spending some time in a nursing home and the hospital. A week ago yesterday (Thursday), one of my brothers called me at work and explained that Dad would probably not last through the following night. However, after the hour-long commute back home, some hurried suitcase packing and a four-hour drive to my parents' house in Virginia, I found that my family's plan was to visit him the next day. On Friday, we all said our goodbyes to him. He would pass later that evening, at the age of 84.
We had two viewings the following Tuesday and the funeral on Wednesday, for which I served as pallbearer. For the viewings, we were able to find about 20 photos from Dad's life. A set of old black and white shots included some from his and mom's wedding, some from their early years of raising a family, and one of Dad's parents. The viewings and funeral were attended by some people who knew my father, others who had worked with him or one of my siblings, several out-of-town relatives, and some old friends and neighbors whom I had not seen for a long time, some literally for decades.
Dad was born in northeastern Pennsylvania during the waning days of the Coolidge presidency and lived to see a president younger than two of his children. His father was a mining foreman and his mother was a housewife, but also worked in a cigar factory. He had only one sibling, a younger sister. He grew up during the Great Depression, was a teenager in World War II, and served in the Army Air Corps after the war, including some time in then-occupied Germany. He rose to the rank of Sergeant, the lowest within that group of ranks, immediately above Corporal. After his discharge, he lived in New Jersey for a short time, before returning home to Pennsylvania and attending college on the G.I. Bill. He graduated from the University of Scranton with a degree in Physics and then attended a graduate program at Amherst University but did not obtain any advanced degree.
Dad found work in his field in western New York State, but married a woman from his home town in Pennsylvania, a younger alumna of his own high school. Other than during a year-long hiatus to Connecticut, they raised six children in New York, until he was laid off in 1974. (This would be a blessing in disguise. A few years later, his old division went defunct.) After finding a new employer, he moved us down to Virginia in 1975. Other than one brother and myself, we have all stayed in the same area ever since.
Dad was a staunch conservative, a die-hard fan of the New York Yankees, and a talented piano player, and was proud of his Slovak and Polish heritage. In these aspects he was definitely where I "get it from". He was a conservative Democrat when the term was not yet an oxymoron.
Dad was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, and is survived by my mother, their six children, and six grandchildren. Due to his age and a previous bout with septic pneumonia, after which he never quite got back to his previous state of health, we knew it would only be a matter time before he would no longer be with us. Because of this, I believe, and because Dad was with us for a long time, we're all doing pretty well. I count myself very fortunate or perhaps blessed, to have gone past age 50 with both parents still around.
As I see what's happened in the world during the past week or so, I see that many have not been so fortunate. You may pray for myself and my family, but please don't cry for me. Cry for those who lost someone at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, at the Westgate Mall in Niarobi, Kenya, or the suicide bombing of a Protestant church in Pakistan. The survivors of the victims of these attacks surely deserve our sympathy and our prayers.