This is my Dad.
Yesterday was his ninetieth birthday. He was born in Oklahoma County in the State of Oklahoma on May 30, 1925, Decoration Day.
Decoration Day had become a traditional holiday in the United States to commemorate the war dead following the Civil War which ended in 1865. The name gradually changed to Memorial Day, not most commonly used until after World War II. It wasn’t officially called Memorial Day until 1967.
Daddy was born at home. He weighed just over ten pounds. His mother, Emma Mae Jarvis Weber, was a tiny little thing, barely five feet tall and not much more than 100 pounds.
His father, Lawrence Leland Weber, farmed with mules and took pride in his teams and his saddle horses. If he hadn’t already, and Daddy can’t be sure he hadn’t, he soon acquired a Model T Ford.
Daddy’s sister, Leland Mae was a toddler.
And Daddy was duly named Lawrence Alvin, making his initials LAW. Grandma felt that having initials that spelled something would be good luck.
Speaking of luck, his astrological sign was Gemini which holds that he’s supposed to be energetic, clever, imaginative, witty, and adaptable – all of which he is, plus courteous and kind. I’ve never observed him to have any of the negative characteristics Gemini are supposed to have.
Chinese astrology says that Daddy was born in the year of the Ox. People born under this sign are said to be hardworking, discreet, modest, industrious, charitable, loyal, punctual, philosophical, patient, and good-hearted individuals with high moral standards. All true of my Daddy.
In the real world that Saturday, the moon was in its first quarter. The high temperature that day was 87o, the low was 68o, and no precipitation. The Stock Market was closed for the holiday, but ended the day before at $129.95. That’s very low by today’s standard, but it was robust for then and on the rise. More importantly to Daddy’s family was the price of cotton – $19.62 per hundred weight. 1925 would be a good year for cotton producers.
There would be two more sisters, Virginia Ellen, and Thelma Grace.
Daddy grew up during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. His experiences were as a white child in a segregated community where most of the white people were related to him or related to someone who was related to him. His circle of friends came ready-made from birth. They were kith and kin.
In 1943, in the midst of World War II, he left school to join the Navy. He became a Seabee and served in the Pacific Theater of War.
As with many young men of that time, it was his first experience away from home. Those young men were from all parts of the country, big cities, small towns, and the countryside. They were all there – young men from the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, the Deep South, the Great American Plains, and the West Coast.
They were farmers’ sons and factory laborers’ sons, longshoremen’s sons, doctors’ sons, bakers’ sons, and preachers’ sons. Some were single. Some were married with sons and daughters of their own. Each had joined the navy for his own reason, but all were there for the duration – until the war ended, whenever that would be. And again, Daddy’s circle of friends was ready-made.
When he came back into civilian life, he returned to Oklahoma County and his rural roots. He married a local girl, Peggy Hrdlicka. His Aunt June who was married to Momma’s Uncle Ray complained that she hadn’t gotten any new relatives out of the marriage. It was in fact the third of four marriages between Daddy’s family and Momma’s family.
Daddy farmed for a while and they had me. Then almost two years later they had my brother Matt. Each time the cost of our delivery was paid for by the sale of a cow.
Daddy was constantly on the lookout to improve our lot and it was pretty clear that he wouldn’t be able to buy his own farm so he went to work for the Rural Electric Co-op as a lineman. Then to Oklahoma Gas and Electric.
Then he bought a service station. For those of you too young to remember, that was a place you stopped at to refuel your car. You would stay in your car while an attendant came running out to fill your gas tank, wash your windows, check your oil, take payment for the gas (cash or credit only – no credit cards existed then.) He wished you a safe journey, thanked you, and invited you to come back.
They also took care of your car’s maintenance and repair – everything from washing and vacuuming to new windshield wiper blades to engine overhauls. These were where they made their money, not the gasoline sales. Those were basically come-ons to get your other business.
The service station didn’t work out, primarily due to Oklahoma’s “gas wars.” In today’s climate where you’re glad to get $2.50 plus gas, gas wars seem like a myth. The stations – and like today, there was one on almost every corner – would undercut each other on gas prices. This went so far as to get gas down to nine cents a gallon. That was cheaper than Daddy could buy the gas.
So he went to work for Sears, Roebuck selling household appliances. That was the first and only time Daddy dressed in a suit for something other than church. And from there to the City of Edmond’s Electric Department, then to Edmond’s Water Treatment Plant, then to Edmond’s new hospital as their Executive Housekeeper where he supervised the entire housekeeping and maintenance staff, then to Oklahoma Christian College where he again supervised the maintenance staff and grounds crews.
And finally, he retired.
He left the farm early on, but it was always with him. He gardened. He bought an acreage and gardened on a grand scale. He raised goats for milk, chickens for eggs and meat. He raised rabbits and two or three pigs, and a couple of cows at a time for meat. He had bees for honey. All before retirement. And after.
In all this time, he left Oklahoma County only for vacations. With the exception of living a short time in Payne County when he first went to work for REA. That’s about fifty miles away, an easy car trip home each weekend.
He added work friends and his family regularly added family friends to his circle.
Then after caring for Momma in the last few years of her life and living on his own in Oklahoma County, he and I joined our households. Three years ago we moved to Lakewood, Colorado, for my husband’s job.
Lakewood, a suburb of Denver, is more than half again as big as Edmond, the town we called home in Oklahoma. Denver is twice as big as Oklahoma City, population-wise. And we didn’t know anyone here. No ready-made circle of friends.
We have care-givers from Visiting Angels help Daddy five mornings a week now and we go to an exercise class Mondays and Wednesdays at Carmody Recreation Center. So when Daddy’s 90th birthday was approaching, I didn’t consider throwing a party because “who would we invite?” We didn't really have friends or relatives here.
Daddy’s close friends and relatives who are still living, live a long way away.
But Carol, one of Daddy’s care-givers, wanted to know what we were going to do for Daddy’s birthday and I told her I hadn’t planned anything. Well, she said she was going to do something anyway. And Yolanda, Daddy’s primary care-giver, said I should have a party for him and invite the people from our exercise class.
So that’s what we did. My husband, our daughter, her fiance, and Daddy, too. They all helped get ready for the party. Daddy and his care-giver Richard peeled and chopped apples for Daddy's famous apple pie. I baked -- cookies, the pies, a chocolate cake.
Daddy and I wondered who would come. How many would come? Would the sun shine or would it rain? Did we have enough food?
They came and we had enough food. The sun shone. The house was full and guests spilled out onto the deck. Three of his care-givers (two with spouses in-tow) and lots of people from the exercise class came. Relatives from all over called to wish him Happy Birthday. He had a very good time. We all did.
And, you know what? Daddy has a ready-made circle of friends wherever he is.
Richard from Visiting Angel, Daddy,
and Louise from Exercise Class.