Today was my father’s birthday. Harry John. A moment of silence to remember him – – – he was a great man, full of mischief, a born storyteller, everybody who knew him liked him. He told me once that he patterned his life after his own father, my grandfather Frederick Heath, who was also well liked and esteemed. I didn’t know my Grampy well, I was young when he passed. But I loved my father very much.
My sister and I always called him Daddy. Daddy married my mother, Garneta, in 1943, in a parsonage in Ashtabula, Ohio. As I understand it, since it was wartime, the only people present were the pastor and his wife. They didn’t have a wedding party, no family to support them and celebrate with them at a reception in their honor, just two young people starting their life together.
They didn’t have a 25th anniversary party either. But as their 50th approached in 1993, my sister and I planned a 50th anniversary party for them. All the family came. My cousins were there, many of them staying over from my Uncle Bud’s funeral, which had been that morning. My father’s cousins were there as well. We tried to keep it a surprise from my mother, but of course she knew there was something going on, when I flew into town and went into huddled planning conferences with my sister. The party was held in the old firehouse on Main Street, and at one point, as I sat next to my mother and listened to her talk, and realized how much it truly meant to her, to finally have the wedding party that she hadn’t had 25 years ago, or 50. I have never regretted that party.
In his later years, Daddy suffered from dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and he didn’t talk much. He stopped telling his stories. How I loved hearing his stories! But he remained charming to the end.
Today is always bittersweet to me, because it is the day before November 11, which is the anniversary of his death. He died in the small hours of November 11, 1997, in a nursing home in Ohio. The only people with him were two nursing home attendants, who were fond of him. I met them at his funeral, and we talked briefly. I am grateful to them for being there, when I couldn’t be.
I miss him very much. But I know that he loved me. And that we will all be together again.