Monday, August 16, 2010

Boogey Woogie Bugle Boy

Happy birthday, Dad!

That's him. Second from left. Back row. The 23 year old Army Air Corps captain from Kentucky. Pilot of the Goin' Jesse. A storied bomber in the Asian theater. WWII. Survived Japanese fooz fire fights. Saved his crew.

You know. I always felt like I could be in a crashing plane with him and we'd be okay. He was just that way. Instilled confidence in me. A trouble-shooter extraordinaire. Could see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Hone in on those leaves in the midst of the shadowy woods, distill the issue, define the problem. Then with the steady precision of a bombardier hit his mission. Solution. Resolution. Case closed.

I got that from him.

You'd be 89 today. Your ninetieth year.

I baked a cake to celebrate. Your fave. Pearl's dot chocolate cake. Milk chocolate icing. Baker's red box of unsweetened but not so bitter cocoa. To celebrate you, the birthday boy! Okay. Okay. And I confess: to delight my sweet tooth, my cravings for sugary confections. Hey, Dad, what do you think this is? Your birthday? You bet it is!

But I am stymied. The choice of ice cream has me a bit confused. Ha! A real quandary.

Remember when Charlie enrolled in a Saturday morning class for kids at the local community college? To learn about how ice cream ends up in the freezer case at our local markets.

Assignment 1: Interview your family and friends to see who prefers what. Easy. We all have our beloved cold, creamy taste treat to memory.

Everyone had an immediate response. Not you, the most decisive thinker on the planet. My mentor who instilled within me the ability to make a decision with the facts on hand. They might change. But don't look back. Be confident with your choice.

So, Charlie quickly wrote down Grandpa Bill's selection: definitely mint chocolate chip from Baskin Robbins (especially with the Tuesday senior discount). That's the one. Charlie said he missed you and handed the phone to me.

Then I heard: "Wait a minute ... its Neapolitan." You remember, that layered block of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ribbons? Served at 1950s birthday parties. Whoa. Not so fast ... Grandpa Bill is rethinking his selection. In my opinion that is three flavors. Not one. But who am I to judge. Back to my son to work this out with his grandfather.

While they were discussing all flavors, my mind scrolled back to my childhood. Speed Avenue. Past our bedtimes. The house dark. Not yet asleep. Probably reading with the closet light streaming across my bed. From my bedroom's vantage point across from yours ... and at the top of the stairs ... I watched as you tiptoed down the elegant winding staircase in your pajamas. Into the faux brick floored kitchen.

Just as quietly I'd follow. Yep. There you were. Caught! Dipping a silver ice tea spoon into the carton. Closeted in the large pantry. Door closed. Ice crystals be damned. That large floor freezer could hold a side of beef in its frosty cavernous belly. The half gallons of Sealtest perched precariously on freezer burned boxes of Green Giant green beans and frozen peas next to the steakettes. Whatever they were.

Ah, but I digress.

Young Charlie was trying gently to confirm that the Neapolitan (which he never heard of) was Grandpa Bill's final pick. You said YES ABSOLUTELY. Then NO!

It was actually homemade peach. Churned in the backyard on a hot, humid summer day.

Then you though it just might be plain ol' chocolate.

Charlie handed the receiver back to be bemused and confused.

So you know my conundrum. Bought them all (except the ribboned one ... yech). Ate them with an ice tea spoon in your honor. Right out of the carton. Interspersed with bites of the moistest cake this side of the Mason Dixon line.

Off point. Way.

Dad, you are my cerebral guide. I commune with you for all things of the mind. Daily. Your adventuresome, unconventional journey influences mine. Your deep intellect and ever-curious mind inspires me to dwell in possibilities. Your enthusiastic, roll-up-the-shirtsleeves vision motivates me to seek unparalleled opportunities.

Additionally ... and most important ... I thank you, not for your amazing ability to emulate the greatest jazz pianists of our times by your keen ear (Robin inherited that), nor your athletic prowess (missed out on that one, too) to master skiing at 47 and hitting a tennis ball that put you in the ranks of Rod Laver ... but the minuscule grey hair atop your abundant (even at 77) hair! Yep. Over the years you saved me beaucoup of much needed dollars!

Cheers! Happy birthday, JW ... I love you! The tinkle of the ivories and the strain of jazz piano lets me know you are near. Choice of ice cream be damned.

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