O mein Papa, Happy Birthday

“Deep in my heart I miss him so today”  from the sentimental song ” O mein Papa” seems the perfect line to  hum on this 8th day of May; this day which would have been my father’s 98th birthday.

On May 8th someone in the family would have made him his favourite roast chicken dinner, just as he did for us  on so many special occasions. And we would have drunk to his health with cider and champagne.  My siblings and I may still do the latter, via Skype, but the family meal will have to wait until we gather again.

Dad preparing stuffing for a roast chicken dinner; in my kitchen about a decade ago. The cherries were for snacking not stuffing!

Although, today, my thoughts are  mainly focused on my father,  I am also thinking of other  important events  associated with 8 May, such as VE Day  and World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.

For my father’s birthday in 2014  I wrote about the Red Cross and its significance in our lives. Read on if you would like to know more of that story.

The Importance of May 8th

“Today, 8 May, is the birthday of  Henry Dunant , founder of the Red Cross and joint  recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Today, also, marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which since 1948 has been celebrated internationally on Henry Dunant’s birthday.

Another celebration that takes place every year on 8 May is my father’s birthday. 🙂

Although the idea for the Red Cross arose  in 1859 and was formalised in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was only established in 1919, in the aftermath of World War 1.  So the IFRC  was almost as brand new as my father when he arrived into the world in 1920.

In the  Christchurch Press, for the day of my father’s birth, there is an item which mentions the Red Cross Society in the US, providing hostess houses for the 3709 war brides of the American Expeditionary Force. The newspaper also has articles about ongoing peace and treaty negotiations and on war graves decisions, as well as the influenza outbreaks which were, once again, causing concern in New Zealand.  In 1920 the world may have been nominally at peace but the First World War was still very much a presence in everyday lives.  Yet there would, undoubtedly, have been an expectation that babies born after ‘the war to end all wars’ would live their lives in peace.

I am sure, my grandmother, holding her new-born baby, that day in May, did not  imagine that a couple of decades hence her boy would be in uniform.

 

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb (Street Photography)

Nor would she imagine that, by the 1980s, her son would be working, in his post retirement years, for the Fiji Red Cross.

 

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

That’s the trouble with kids; you never know where they’ll end up or how they’ll turn out, but I think my grandmother would say she raised a good lad. 😉

Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Red Cross.

© silkannthreades "

Postscript

If you link to the original post you will find comments from two bloggers who have since passed away. I miss them, too: Christine

and Catherine from Seeking Susan.

And for those of you who are interested in the military connections in this post, you may like to visit our wonderful  New Zealand Online War Memorial  Cenotaph where I have been putting together my father’s online memorial.  My father served both in New Zealand and the Solomons.   He was with radar Unit 53, Cape Astrolabe, on Malaita, one of the most isolated RNZAF detachments in the Pacific.

 

Have I read you dry? Join me in a toast to mein Papa. Cheers!

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102 thoughts on “O mein Papa, Happy Birthday

  1. Lisa Dorenfest

    I dread the day that I have to feel such sadness after my father passes. But how fortunate were you (and me) to have had (have) such a great man for a father? Can you point me to more stories of your fathers time with the Red Cross in Fiji? I love that picture of him at his desk.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Lisa, Unfortunately I don’t have any more stories of my father’s time with the Red Cross. Because I was at boarding school, then University, and then travelling with my husband, I really didn’t have a lot of daily contact with my father, so I missed out on many stories. I didn’t miss out on any love, though. 🙂 I am glad you still have your father. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Robbie

    I do know how you miss your Father:-) I miss mine very much too:-) I enjoyed reading about your father and seeing pictures of him from the past. What an amazing man! He was a bit older than my Father. My Dad was in the Korean War. I was at my grandson’s birthday party ( he turned 5 yrs) yesterday and my father picked out an orange outfit for him a few months before he passed( my dad was 86). My mother told me he always was looking for things for the “little guy.” He had to buy the orange outfit since the little guy liked the color orange.

    My father died from Lewy Body Alzheimers (named after the guy that found this type) on May 8 at a hospice house. It was peaceful. I am grateful he was able to stay at home for the past 5 yrs.
    I am not looking forward to Father’s Day. It will be hard. My heart goes out to you. What wonderful pictures and memories you have of your father. We were blessed to have good fathers:-)

    Sending you a Big cyber hug ( )…thank you for your wonderful post-enjoyed it very much.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Robbie, I hope you made your way through Father’s Day. We have a few months to go before we celebrate Father’s Day in New Zealand. But the extra time probably won’t make it any easier when the actual day is here. I was with my mother and sister a week ago. It’s a little strange to be with them but without my father. I sometimes found myself standing by his bed and stroking his pillow. He was somehow still there. Because of the orange outfit you would have felt the presence of your father at the birthday party which would have been strange but also comforting, I expect. Big cyber hug to you, too.

      Reply
      1. Robbie

        ty:-) I do know what you mean about being where “father” was always. It is still hard for me to go and see my mother standing and waving good by without him standing next to her. It seems so strange.
        Father’s day was strange. I had a beer and toasted my dad while I had a good cry alone. My Father-in-law was over so I went off by myself in the garden and chatted with my dad:-) Yep, I still talk to him. A big cyber hug to you too( ).

        Reply
  3. Britt Skrabanek

    Love this, Gallivanta! I want to continue celebrating my parents’ birthdays forever too. For now, I’m lucky that I can still call them and send some sweet wishes. xo

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Hold on to them extra tight, Britt, and give them all the sweet wishes you can. I am really missing my Dad, and now my Mum is having trouble remembering who I am.

      Reply
  4. Sheryl

    What a lovely tribute to your father! I also appreciated your postscript at the end. Catherine from Seeking Susan was a regular reader of my blog. Like you, I miss her.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Sheryl. My father would have enjoyed your blog. He was always interested in food and recipes and had clear memories of food served decades ago in the homes of his family and extended family.

      Reply
  5. Mrs. P

    What a beautiful post and memorial of you papa. I recall the transition after losing mine, an out of-of-sortness and disconnection until I was able to create my own personal memorial of him in a painting, bringing me closure and peace. I hope you find this too, my friend. Though I have been absent from the virtual world, does not mean that I haven’t though of you. ❤️

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Mrs P. The disconnection is peculiar, isn’t it? I am no artist, so I am unlikely to do a painting but I do have Dad’s photo on my mobile phone main page; that’s very comforting. I suppose in years gone by I would have put his photo in a locket round my neck. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Sheila

    That’s wonderful that you remember your dad in this way and continue to celebrate him. Though he didn’t live in a peaceful time after the war to end all wars, it sounds like he made the best of everything and must have helped so many people while working for the Red Cross. I love hearing about people like him – it gives me hope.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Karen. My father was very happy at the Red Cross, and what made the work even better was that the office was just across the road from his apartment. No commuting!

      Reply
  7. Clanmother

    This is the third time round for reading this post, Gallivanta! A profound and moving tribute that recognizes how we are all linked by a common thread – time. We have been given time that must be lived with joy and reverence. Your father’s life inspires us, who remain behind, to live out our years with enthusiasm. My father passed over 7 years ago – even now, his voice remains a beacon of hope and a call to action to live every moment, to embrace what has been given, to share laughter and sorrow. Much love and hugs coming your way…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Clanmother, it cheers me enormously that your father’s voice encourages you still. I look forward to carrying my father with me on the rest of my journey. Hugs and love to you, too.

      Reply
  8. Iris@poetsmith

    A wonderful tribute to your father and the Red Cross. Such loving memories of him. It’s a great organisation and you must all feel so proud of your father for his contribution! Love and prayers. Take good care.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Iris. My father always liked to help a good cause. He worked hard to make life better for his family and for his community. And he was always a good neighbour.

      Reply
  9. Mary

    Beautiful writing and memories of your Dad, Gallivanta It shows your love and devotion for him ~ a sweet man. Glad I saw this post.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad you came by, Mary. Dad lived a full life. Towards the end of his life he was struggling both mentally and physically but his determination to maintain his personhood and independence to the last moment was amazing.

      Reply
      1. Born To Organize

        A life well lived, and an end to emulate. What a remarkable man, your father. I know you miss him so. This is a lovely tribute to all the generations touched by the war, as well as the healing spirit and intentions of the Red Cross/Red Crescent. I’m sure you’re very much like your dad: a giver and a lover of life. xo

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Aww that is sweet of you. From what you remember of your father, would you say you are more like him than your Mother? Maybe that is too hard to call.

        2. Born To Organize

          Not at all. I’m very much like my father in many ways. Dad was a horticulturist and a hobbyist. He painted, collected stamps and coins from around the world, built our home garden from a pile of dirt and had a tender heart for all animals and children. My mom was the more pragmatic of the two, and I have that from her as well. When they owned a couple of flower shops in Seaforth, Canada, Dad did all the creative arrangements and mom handled the business end of things like billing. They complimented each other. Dad died two days shy of their 19th wedding anniversary and was buried on their anniversary. I’ve always thought that was a cruel irony.

          Mom lived to see her 89th birthday; Dad died at 52. Thank you for asking. I guess I had a lot to say. xo

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          How lovely that your father did all the creative arrangements.I can imagine how much at home he would be in your garden and house, and, in a way, he is through you. 🙂 My father put his creativity into icing all our special occasion cakes. He died just a few weeks short of their 70th wedding anniversary, and his funeral was on the day of the wedding anniversary. My mother was slightly bemused by that as well as everything else. Hugs.

        4. Born To Organize

          Aren’t these unusual coincidences? What a life they had together, Amanda. 70 years! That’s extraordinary. I love that your father enjoyed icing cakes. That’s delightful.

          I wish I could show my dad the garden, but I feel his essence when I’m there. Hugs.

        5. Gallivanta Post author

          What a life indeed! Fortunately my mother was a good diary keeper until just a few years ago, so most of it is recorded. 🙂

  10. Mary Mageau

    What a beautifully moving blog post you have gifted us with. I loved looking at the photo of your father, working away in the kitchen on his roast for the family. I will remember him in my prayers as well as those who contributed to your safety and welfare during the war years. We all have so much to be thankful for today, and the sacrifices of those who brought this about must always be remembered and celebrated.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Mary, my father was a wonderful provider and that included providing wonderful meals each day as well as for special occasions. If we had a choice between going to a restaurant or having one of Dad’s home cooked meals we always chose the latter.

      Reply
  11. Lavinia Ross

    This is a beautiful tribute to your father, Gallivanta, a wonderful way to remember him and celebrate his life. You both are in my thoughts and prayers.

    May 8th is the day my own mother died.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes,aren’t we lucky to have so many photos! And voice recordings too, although I am putting off listening to those as I am not sure how I will feel about hearing Dad’s voice. I suppose one of the positive things about grief is that it means we have also experienced great love. Hugs to you.

      Reply
  12. Tiny

    A beautiful post, Gallivanta. We both lost our fathers within the last year. It is good to remember them…and be thankful for having had such good men as our fathers. I also miss Christine and other blogging friends who have passed away.

    Reply
  13. shoreacres

    I may have missed it, but I didn’t see that anyone mentioned the song you referenced in your title. I haven’t heard it for years, but it brought tears by the second or third line: it was popular in my childhood, and summed up for me then how I felt about my own father. It still does. Sometimes, a song can hold emotion far more successfully than just words. You found the perfect title for your loving and gentle tribute.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Maureen “insearchofitall”recognized the song. Not all the sentiments apply to my father but he was wonderful in the way he cared for us. If I was sick or unwell, I called for my father. If I was scared at night I called out to my father. if something needed fixing, I asked my father to fix it. He was my go-to-man, and although, in reality, he hasn’t been in that role for many years now, my world still feels very shaky without him. There now, I have made myself cry writing that. I am glad the song held special meaning for you,too.

      Reply
      1. shoreacres

        Clearly, our experiences with our fathers were very similar. Now I have a few tears, too, just reading your words. In a world that’s undependable in so many ways, a good, dependable father is an anchor.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Definitely, and I am sure your father, like mine, didn’t say, “You can’t do that because you are girl.” And my father expected my brother to do household tasks just as he did.

  14. utesmile

    I toast to your wonderful Papa too. He was an extraordinary man and so loved. Lovely pictures of him and a wonderful tribute. Mandy your wonderful memories will always be with you. Love and hugs Ute

    Reply
  15. Mél@nie

    impressive TRUE story and emotional tribute to you Papa, RIP… you’ve been both lucky, ’cause I think that remembering him and celebrating his life is concrete evidence of your mutual affection, admiration and respect…

    Reply
  16. the eternal traveller

    I remember the feeling, when nursing my newborn daughter, of wondering what she would become. It’s so hard to imagine. Your grandmother would have been so proud of her son. Best wishes to you on this day of remembrance.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, my grandmother would have been proud and my grandfather, too. Unfortunately, in my own case, I didn’t have the mindset to think about what my daughter would become because I was so sleep deprived. 😦 At the most I just wanted her to become a better sleeper. 😀 And that has happened yet!!!!

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Cindy, I am glad I wrote most of it several years ago. I don’t think I would have been able to write something new at the moment. My thoughts are still very scattered.

      Reply
  17. restlessjo

    Another lovely tribute for a lovely man. 🙂 🙂 I had to look back out of curiosity. I still make my ‘walk for Christine’ back from t’ai chi some Wednesday mornings and I’ll never forget how shocked I was that day. Your Dad was a man to be proud of as well as to love, Ann.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Christine was lovely and her loveliness shone through in the memorial video. It is good to be, and to have been, in the company of good people; the salt of the earth type people.

      Reply
  18. lensandpensbysally

    The loss of a parent is the hardest of experiences, no matter the distance between the event and the present. It never seems to get easier. Still, your tribute is a way to honor that memory.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Sally, my father was a private and modest person, so it’s hard to know how much to put out in public, but I also think it’s important to pay tribute to the ordinary stories and ordinary people. After all without the plain folk, nothing much would get done in this world.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Maureen, I am sure I will miss him for the rest of my days. I don’t know when I first heard that song but it just came to mind as I began to write my post. Apparently it was a number one hit song in its time in the 1950s.

      Reply
  19. Steve Schwartzman

    I think the first would-have-been birthday of a loved one who is no longer here must always be the hardest, the separation being still so recent and so final. That’s how I’ve experienced it. As you said: ” It’s quite a hard day to get through but it’s been great to remember him and celebrate.”

    On a lighter note, I followed your link to the Christchurch Press from May 8, 1920, and noticed the first item on page 1: “In order to guard against imposition, notices of Births, Marriages, and Deaths must be authenticated to ensure their insertion.” See, fake news isn’t news.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ha! Good eye, Steve. And also very interesting because The Press didn’t ask me for any authentication when I asked them to publish my father’s death notice. Surely we are not more honest and trustworthy than we, the people, used to be! As for fake news, it has been around for ever but maybe not on this 21st century scale.

      Reply
      1. Steve Schwartzman

        Right. Our current digital technology has facilitated many forms of communication, including—alas—fake news. The word itself has an interesting history. Here’s what the American Heritage Dictionary says: ‘From earlier slang, to do, rob, tamper with, from earlier feak, to beat and feague, to beat, set moving, cause (a horse) to hold its tail high by artificial means, fake (as in feager, one using false documents), perhaps from German fegen, to sweep, move briskly, torment, or Dutch vegen, to sweep.’

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Most interesting. Let me take this one step further. The early radar units, such as the one my father was in, had to grapple with this new technology called radar. Sometimes as the radar swept across the horizon it gave the operators fake news. My father said they often had to work out what was real and what was just fake news. On one occasion the radar indicated planes were on the way. The men, some of whom, were showering at the time, ran ( naked, my father said) up the hill to man the guns. They all felt very silly when the aircraft were identified as friendly. My father said he always wondered what they looked like to the aircraft crew ; naked defenders of the hill!

  20. Su Leslie

    Lovely tribute to your dad. I imagine it would have been particularly difficult for mothers of sons born post-WWI to see their boys go off to war, with the memories and effects of the wounds (physical and particularly psychological) carried by husbands and brothers so fresh and on-going.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Not only mothers but fathers too. My grandfather, who lost his brother in WW1, did not want my father to go to war. But my father insisted on going. For a start he was in New Zealand but when he went overseas, the family had no idea,at first, where my father was going in the Pacific. What a worry.

      Reply
      1. Su Leslie

        You are absolutely right. I tend to think “as a mother”, but in some ways it would have been worse for the men, many of whom had first-hand experience.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          My grandfather had an accident in 1913 which left him with a damaged leg, so he was not able to serve in WW1. Apart from the brother who was killed, my grandfather had 2 brothers who served and survived, one of whom was seriously injured, so he would have had a very poor opinion of war. According to my father, my grandfather didn’t attend Anzac services; the family went on a picnic instead.

  21. Liz

    I raise my glass you your cherished Papa, to the marvellous Red Cross institution and, of course, to you, dear friend. Sending much love and many hugs on this most important of days ❤️

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      My brother, my sister and I have just had a whisky toast to our father via a Skype video call. I think it’s probably too early for you to enjoy a whisky. 😀

      Reply

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