He was happiest when he was singing.
The old story is that he decided to go to the Presbyterian Church in Lindsay simply because he liked the choir and the choir director. That woman, Virginia Hanigan, is still part of my life. She brought me to music.
I sang in that Presbyterian choir with him for four years. We never sang together any place else.
He serenaded me with “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” at a family celebration. He was drunk.
He took me (and the rest of the family, of course) on amazing trips. I sat in the gallery of the United States Senate for the cloture vote on the Civil Rights Act. I saw Mike Mansfield talking to Ted Kennedy. I stood on the family side of President John F. Kennedy’s grave. I stood for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I stood and watched the sun rise on the faces at Mount Rushmore. I ate dinner at the Copa Cabana Club. I saw amazing things at the New York World’s Fair. I slept in my grandmother’s basement. I attempted ice skating in Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis.
He bought me amazing clothes. He always took me to an “exclusive” women’s store in Fresno to buy dresses for the proms and winter formals. I was his ‘princess’ and I reveled in the attention.
He rarely hugged me. He rarely complemented me (or anyone else as far as I knew). I was not allowed to have a paying job. I was to go to college of one reason- to help my husband, whomever that may be, climb the corporate ladder.
When he died of lung cancer I didn’t know whether to cry or be relieved. I still don’t. It doesn’t help that, as I grow older, the resemblance between he and I is astounding.
But he gave me one enormous gift that I can never repay.
He gave me the gift of singing. Occasionally, I even sound like him.
So I pay homage to my father on this his 98th birthday.