Monday, April 18, 2016

80 Years Old Today

On April 18th, 1936, Dennis Lynn Brady was born to Lloyd and Pauline Brady. He would eventually become my father.  Today he is 80 years old.

The world was in a precarious place in that time. The nation was still trying to recover from a depression that seemed to drag on and on. Fascist powers were on the rise in Europe and the Japanese empire was beginning to wage war against her neighbors. It was a very uncertain time to be alive. There was not much hope for future generations. By September of 1939, Germany had invaded Poland and this spark ignited the greatest conflagration the world has ever seen, making the 20th century the bloodiest in human history.

It was into this world that my father was born, in a place far removed from the violence, in a land called Iowa. Agriculture was the business to be in if you lived in Iowa. Lloyd and Pauline were tenant farmers and so my Dad and his brother worked on the farmstead as they grew up, sheltered from the troubles of a world ablaze in war. Even so the work was hard and it served to toughen Dad in ways that can be seen to this day.

Except for what he talks about, his early years are a bit of a mystery to me. Dad lost a fingertip in a pump jack of a windmill when he was 3. He developed grand mal epilepsy some time later, possibly in his teen years from a brain injury incurred earlier that was the result of a fall into a concrete cellar entrance. He spent most of his life taking phenobarbital and dilantin to curb the seizures. The drugs seemed to work. The seizures were few and far between. I can remember his last one in 1968. He was stressed. He had just moved into management at his place of work. He was also in the middle of remodeling a house that he and Mom had just purchased. It was the reason we were living with my other grandparents, Charles and Dorthy Meacham. Dad fell to the floor seizing while getting ready for work. He had been shaving. It was early in the morning. The bathroom he was in was small and he could have been severely injured when he went down by the porcelain fixtures, but he was not. He did spend the day rest of the day off from work and with his parents.

Dad came of age in the 1950's. I am led to believe that it was the most glorious decade to be a young, white American. We had become defacto rulers of the world, having defeated the Axis powers in the second world war, closing with the first use of the atomic bomb. Even poor Americans seemed wealthy in that time. Everyone was reaping the benefits of our victory. The arsenal of democracy was becoming the greatest industrial power on earth. Houses were getting bigger. Cars were huge. Fuel and energy was cheap. Food was cheap. And the US dollar was worth about $1.20. Our national currency was actually based on the value of something - gold and silver - rather than the full faith and credit of the US government. It must have been an incredible time to be alive.

Somewhere during that time period, Dad met my mother. Their respective families attended the same church and so their meeting in the church setting was natural. Mom and Dad dated off and on for several years. Dad tells a story about how one Sunday night after services, he went out to his car to find my mother sitting in the passenger seat. He says she was 14 years old. Since there was 3 years between them, this would have made him 17. There are some that might have consider this scandalous today, but in 1954, not so much. They married on January 30, 1957. Dad was 20 and Mom was 17. Strangely (;^000 nine months later, I was born on September 18th of 1957. One might ask was it just coincidence or did something drive them to an early wedding? One might ask, but it would be rude at this point. Even so, when Mom graduated high school she was six months pregnant. The whole thing may have been a quiet scandal back in the Day. Whatever it was, I think it was meant to be. They loved each other more than life itself. You could see it, even when they would argue. It was a grand and glorious union that I was privileged to grow up with. It lasted until May 31, 2011, when Mom left this world to be with our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ. What was gain for her was loss for Dad and I. We both miss her very much.

When she passed, Dad was at least two years into an Alzheimer's diagnosis. He was dependent on her to keep the bills paid and to cook for him and take him to the doctor. I had to take over those duties when she departed. Dad and I have been together since that time and his condition continues to deteriorate. Even so, he still mows lawn. He has not forgotten how to do that. He loses the mower key and sometimes forgets to disengage the blades and set the brake, but he still loves to do it.

He spent his work life with the Anderson Erickson Dairy. It was the only real job outside of the farm that he ever had. There were a number of people in our family that worked there and it has become an Iowa institution over the years. He will still talk about it at length when given the opportunity. He loved working there and they did take very good care of him and our needs as a family. He finished his career there as a buyer.

In all, he has had a life that would be the envy of others throughout the world. He was a motor head. He liked cars and he knew how to work on them. In his youth, I am told, he would drag race his Fords. It was quite popular in the '50's and Dad was supposedly good at it. Early in his life, he enjoyed hunting and later he developed a love for fishing. It was this one that he and I held in common. It is what we would do when spending quality time together.

And now we are together again. He is well passed being able to fish. Arthritis and Alzheimer's has slowed his pace physically and mentally, but our present situation has also served to bring us closer. Dad and I have had a roller coaster relationship over the past 58 years, but we have been given this time together to work out the bumps. Since we are both Christians, this had been made easier by our faith and our Lord. I firmly believe that the Lord has given us this time.

I do not know that I will always be able to care for him as I do now. As he ages and his condition accelerates, I will not be able to leave him at home during the day. I think that soon, they will no longer let him drive, not that he goes anywhere more than 5 miles beyond the house. He is in the Lord's hands. I am just there to assist. I do hope though that the Lord will not let him die of Alzheimer's. It is a dreadful disease. I could go on, but I will not.

So Dad, I know you're not reading this, but happy birthday anyway. I think Mom would be pleased with both of us and how we have made things work. She would probably be PO'd because we are not taking better care of her house and gardens, but then again, maybe she would not care. She is in a much more upscale community today, probably getting it ready for us to join her.

Happy Birthday Dad. I love you.