I’ve taken a rather long sabbatical from blog writing – mainly due to my father’s passing. He lived in a clean and comfortable veteran’s home in Florence, Colorado, about an hour south of Colorado Springs. We all ask ourselves sometimes how effectively our tax dollars are being spent. I must say whenever I visited my father in the rest home, it made me very proud of his service to our country during World War Two, but also proud that our country took such good care of its veterans. The rest home was extremely well run and the staff were friendly and kind to the residents. Also, the medical care was top notch. If my father had any medical issues, they were immediately taken care of even if the tests or treatments were expensive. Further, the home’s policy was to respect the agency of the residents. The veterans were well treated, and I’m especially grateful to my country for that.
In my father’s case, the rest home was a blessing. He’d been in other rest homes that cost $thousands per month where the service wasn’t half as good as he had in the Veteran’s Home. The price for admission into the home was to turn over his social security and pension checks – about $1500 per month. I’ve done a little checking and I’m convinced that in the free market, the price for the services he received would have been $6-8,000 per month. Who could afford that except the rich?
My father was born in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1924. His father had served in World War One, suffering permanent injuries as a result of being gassed during a battle in France. Nevertheless, my father’s father was a steady worker at Con Edison even during the Depression, until one day he and 5,000 other men were laid off. For my dad’s family, the Depression began then. My father enlisted during World War Two and fought in the Pacific as a U.S. Navy SeaBee – the Navy’s construction battalion. He saw plenty of action, including surviving 3 banzai charges one night on a small island named Los Negros. He later also saw action on Saipan when Japanese soldiers overran an airstrip he was working on. He told the story of how, prior to that fight, General MacArthur came to inspect the airstrip and though there were Japanese in the jungle all around, when MacArthur walked the length and breadth of the strip not a single shot was fired. He said that even the Japanese recognized MacArthur’s special aura.
My father worked hard all his life. If he ever missed a day of work, I’m not aware of it. We used to live in Brooklyn, New York back in the ‘60s and during the occasional transit strike there, he would walk the 90 minutes each way to his job at the New York Journal American – the Hearst newspaper that folded in 1966. He worked in the Reference Room, where he was one of half a dozen people who every day read every major magazine and newspaper in the country. The newsworthy articles were then cut out and filed in uncounted numbers of cabinets that filled the floor of his office. Needless to say my father was the best Trivial Pursuit player I ever knew. He loved his job at the newspaper. Because he sometimes used the reference room for research, Hemingway used to come by at Christmas and leave a bottle for the boys. Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe came by several times, and Mickey Mantle once slept off a night of heavy drinking on one of the office cots. My father carried these memories with him all his life.
In 1966, after the Journal American went out of business after a pointless 140 day strike, my father took his severance pay (I believe around $2,000 after almost 20 years of working at the paper) and the family moved to San Francisco. Moving there changed my life and I’ll always be grateful to my parents for making what must have been at the time a terrifying move. My father didn’t have a job to go to. Eventually he found one and we settled down. However, my father always thought of himself as a New Yorker.
My father died peacefully and without pain on May 31st. My mother passed away in 2001. They are both greatly missed.