Good morning and greetings, opening day fans. April has always been a big month on my family’s birthday front, as both my son and youngest brother share the April 7 experience. And coming up this Thursday, my father, Daniel Gilbert, the partriarch of the tribe, celebrates his 95th birthday. Unbelievable, Batman.
95. That’s a remarkable number. We are talking about 1,140 months, 4,940 weeks, 34,675 days, 832,200 hours, 49,932,000 minutes or 3,995,920,000 seconds, or about the same amount of time it took for “Mad Men” to return to AMC for its fifth season.
My father was born in 1917, a year that falls somewhere between the invention of the telephone, automobile, vacuum cleaner and the neapolitan ice cream sandwich. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he lived through the Great Depression of 1929, the depression brought on when the Dodgers left town and the super depression of being a long-time New York Knick and Giant’s fan.
Forget Dick Cheney’s little waterboarding fetish. You don’t know real suffering unless you watched the Giants dominate the statistics yet find themselves vulnerable to coming up losers on the last possession of the game. Yes, I do realize the Giants were Super Bowl champions this year, but it’s too easy to look back upon the positive as the negative is so much darker and exciting.
My father graduated from Columbia University and Brooklyn Law School. He went into the army and was part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a wartime intelligence agency that was a predecessor of the CIA. It was formed to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines, and his unit’s assignment was to crack German intelligence codes and to figure out why BMW’s were called the ultimate driving machine. He was part of the allied liberation of Paris, when the Americans came in and banned Paris Hilton from releasing any more sex tapes.
The formulation of me began in 1950, when my parents met and after three dates were engaged, and three months later were married. I’ve had stomach aches that lasted longer than their courtship which might explain why I rushed into marriage after nine years of dating.
In 1958, they started Hooks Lane Nursery School, which grew into 100 happy children a day romping around the grounds of our home in Fort Lee, New Jersey. This gig had my father ferrying the children to frolic and play at places like the Bronx Zoo, Staten Island Ferry and various parks around the Garden State. The best part was, besides the nurturing of the children, was that the day ended at 3:30 during the school year and 1 pm in the summer. Now that’s what I call a full day of work.
My father played baseball at Columbia and was a four wall handball champion. He passed the sports gene down to all three sons, as the DNA was particularly strong in the hoops department, as we grew up with chromosomes packed with the basketball jones and seven layer chocolate cake.
I remember the first time my father took me to a game at Yankee Stadium (my brother Paul spent the afternoon collecting peanut shells) and my first basketball game at Madison Square Garden. He took me out for a chocolate milk shake after I pitched my first little league win and was always there for my high school basketball games. Unfortunately, he did not attend the National Honor Society Awards ceremony as I wasn’t selected for any honors.
I remember in the early years watching classic sitcoms with my father like “The Honeymooners” and “Sargeant Bilko,” so I guess I know where my sense of humor originated from. I’m not sure if he encouraged our devotion to “The Three Stooges,” but he still has a pretty good sense of humor, particularly if there are any younger women in the vicinity. And at 95, pretty much everyone is younger. In the words of Shemp Howard after hearing a beautiful blonde utter, “I’m his niece,” replied Shemp, “Ooo, the niece is nice,”
By the way, the new “The Three Stooges” movie opens up this Friday. If you like slapstick violence, this is a film not to be missed. Or as former first lady Nancy Reagan would say, “Just say Moe.”
My father once uttered the classic statement, “If cream cheese were declared illegal, I would stop eating it tomorrow.” He was on the cutting edge of technology, as when he came out with the line, “Why do we need color televison, black and white is fine.” I guess that’s why I don’t use a cell phone but wear my garage door opener on my belt loop.
So my Dad’s going to be 95, and I wanted to give him a shout out before he hits the century mark. He still loves telling my mother how gorgeous she is despite not “having gotten a kiss all day.” For decades of making pancakes for breakfast and continued acts of bravery in marriage, Congress will be rewarding my mother the Silver Star, the Bronze Medal and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
In his later years before dementia took some of him away, my father would always tell me how proud he was of me. Even though I wasn’t setting the world on fire at the time, I took his words to heart, and they still resonate in my head today. I see a lot of myself in him. Thanks, Dad, and I hope I’ve repayed you by being the man and the father you would have wanted me to be.
For today’s photo fun we are heading down to Lighthouse Point and Its Beach to take in a beautiful late January sunrise. As I’ve mentioned before a few million times, moments like this really do it for me as a landscape photographer. Well, that and the thought of NBA playoff tripleheaders that are on the way.
To check out these photos, click on http://www.SunriseSantaCruz.com/blog