My dad would have been 100 on Sunday. He died 25 years ago, shortly after his 75th birthday, and I find it hard to wrap my mind around both facts, but he lives in my mind as he did when I last saw him, freshly shaved and looking younger than he had a right to following years of a terminal illness.
I think of him often and I wonder what he would make of life in 2022. I consider how much transpired during his life and how much has changed since his death.
He was born a few years after the last major pandemic and after World War I ended and seven years before the Great Depression hit America. He told my brother and me stories about how many McCall families–my grandfather’s siblings and their offspring–crammed into the family house together during the Depression because they could no longer afford their own homes.
Six months after he graduated from high school, the US declared war on Japan and Germany and he enlisted in the US Marines. He shipped out for expedited training at Parris Island the last day of 1941 and wouldn’t return home until fall 1945, having survived campaigns on Guadalcanal and New Georgia, among others.
He was part of the Greatest Generation, who believed in hard work and that if you were lucky, you got a job at the same company that sustained you until retirement.
I often describe Dad as being like Mad Men’s Don Draper, without Draper’s many flaws. He slicked his black hair back with Vitalis and didn’t know the meaning of ‘business casual.’
He loved the study of history and was a voracious reader. I am sure he would be enamored of the internet, for it would enable him to conduct much of his beloved ancestry and history research without leaving the comfort of his recliner. The expansion of television offerings that has occurred in the last few decades would allow him to watch historical offerings and Western movies at any time.
Of other developments, I’m less sure of his reaction. I can’t believe he’d think anything other of Donald Trump than that he was a big blowhard, a guy who was all talk and dangerous talk at that. Given Dad’s military service in a war to defeat Fascism, I think he’d be outraged by Trump’s fealty to the leaders of Russia and North Korea.
Same sex marriage? Dad was very traditional but he knew and loved several of my gay friends like they were his own kids. I can’t be sure, but I think he’d figure whatever they wanted to do that didn’t harm others was fine.
I’d love to be able to talk with him about racial issues and discuss how much has changed—and how much hasn’t—since his youth. His school photos show rows of all white faces. The Marine Corps wasn’t integrated when he was on active duty. I never heard overt racism in my house growing up nor anything but derision for groups like the Ku Klux Klan, but beyond that, we didn’t speak of race, and I’d like to.
Dad admired Nathan Bedford Forrest as a military genius, but I wonder how much he knew of Forrest’s role in the Ft. Pillow Massacre. I’d like his take on the controversy the last few years over the Forrest bust in the Tennessee Capitol.
Would he have watched Fox News? Lord, I hope not.
I just want one more hour to talk with him about “fake news” and the Jan. 6 insurrection, among so many other issues. I’d like to catch him up on current events and have the time to compare and debate with him how some things never change and exactly how nuts politics has become.
I’d like just one more hour to talk about a century.