“Go to the next light and make a ubie,” our Philly bred waitress explained at the end of the fireworks dinner cruise celebrating my Dad’s 92nd birthday. It must have been after he and Olga danced the Cupid Shuffle that she added the extra endearing syllable to his name. Frank had never been called Frankie in all those years, yet his youthful dancing spirit captivated and inspired so many people around our table at the head of the disco dance floor. Guys and gals one third his age in shiny club attire, some in six inch heels, swarmed our table like bees to share his spark and sweetness.
“I want to be like you when I get old.”
“You give me hope for my future.”
They only see how he jokes around, dances in his limited way – no more spins – and his twinkling blue eyes. They don’t know that he can’t read signs anymore, macular degeneration leaving a void at the center of his visual world, that his hearing aids squeal more than help him understand you, that he spends ten agonizing minutes in the restroom inserting a catheter to urinate, that climbing steps is now slow and painful, that his vertigo keeps him rocking like this boat.
Up on deck he was like a kid watching the fireworks burst into colors in the sky behind the Ben Franklin Bridge, his favorites the loudest booms. He was disappointed the wind carried the gunpowder smell to the Jersey side. I marvel at the transfer of his World War II experiences into fireworks joy, despite his plane returning from missions with bullet holes, despite his old infantry unit taking 80% casualties, despite riding in a Jeep lighting incendiary bombs and tossing them along a grass runway somewhere in France to show a crippled bomber where to land on a dark night.
None of us will ever know how many times his appetite for new experiences has saved his life – and still fuels his daily passion, in all senses of the word. If he is suffering he sure does not show it and he absolutely does not let it erode his daily fun. Here’s a toast to Frank, I mean Frankie!