What happened 90 years ago still has an effect on today

August 15, 1923-for most of you it is just another day in history and for many it may have no meaning at all.  Earlier in my life I might have felt the same, but no more.

Robert Louis Ryan was born in Lincoln, IL  on this date.  Robert Louis Ryan, better known as “Dewey” was my father.

Growing up as an Irish Catholic boy we always found it funny and ironic that my dad was born on a Catholic holy day.  Not that my dad was a bad guy, he was not.  My dad was adventurous and fun loving right up to the day he took his last breath, April 8, 1983.  I was there for that last breath and it is a moment in time I will never forget.

My dad lived a lot of life in those 59+ years.  He grew up with four sisters, two older and two younger.  The two younger sisters still live in Illinois to this day. 

My dad lived the typical small-town Midwestern life, playing football and graduating in 1941.  He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943 and had a tour of duty in the South Pacific that included such island paradise locations such as Iwo Jima and Guam in addition to the Marshall Islands.

dad marshall islands

Dad never talked much about those days, but the friendships he made in the service had been galvanized by the experiences those young men all had together.

My parents married in 1951 and they had two sons quickly, first Pat and then John.  After seven years of careful planning and preparation I came along in 1959.

When Gena and I started dating I knew that her world would be much different than mine and her first trips to our home in Illinois were interesting to say the least.  I have picked up some of my mischievous methods of antagonizing others from  my father and he did his best to win her over by playing “Dixie” on the electronic doorbell every morning she was there.  I suspect a different tactic might have worked better.

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Dad and Mom were in the process of moving to their dream vacation home in Florida in 1982 after my marriage to Gena when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.  All those years of hard work, sacrificing for his country, all going by the wayside by this bad health break.

Dad died in April of 1983, just 8 months after his retirement and 7 months after our marriage.  Mom lived another few years, but my parents were with me only a short time in my adulthood.

Many times in my life I felt like I was doing everything I could to be someone other than who my father was.  Now that I have reached some level of adulthood I realize that he is in me more than I will ever realize.  My parents did a great job of being parents, which is not the same as being the best friend of their children.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us, but they did a very good job of preparing us to be adults, not just being our friend.  I tried to emulate some of the same practices with our two sons.

Happy Birthday Dad!  I’ll have a cold adult beverage in your honor later today while here in New Orleans.

If you have parents, don’t let them go through a day or week without letting them know how much they helped you and guided you.

If your parents are not in this world, take time to reflect on what they have done to make you what you are today.

You just might be surprised at what a good job they have done.

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