I grew up rather proud of my heritage. My mother was full German, both sets of her Grandparents had come over from Germany in the late 1800’s. My father was half German/half English. His grandparents also made the foray into the new world in the 1800’s. My Grandfather, Wolfgang Hoffman, was born in New York harbor. Apparently his parents felt the driving need to have their child born on American soil. Having been pregnant myself, it brings me chills to think of enduring a boat ride while fully pregnant. They tried to time it right so that Wolfgang would be born here in the states, but as luck would have it, my great-grandmother went into labor and had Wolfgang on the boat. Fortunately for them, they were in American waters when it happened, and he was declared an American citizen.
Growing up, my father didn’t have an easy time of it. His parents divorced when he was young, which caused a bit of a stir in the late 1930’s. His mother died when he was only 12, forcing him to live with his half-sister who was much older. As the story goes, times were tough back then and he was expected to work for his room and board. His friends were all polish, and they dubbed him Donald Hoffman”ski”. He actually loved the nickname – it would come cropping up throughout my lifetime. It is no wonder that I married a polish man myself.
By the time my father was 18, he was chomping at the bit to leave and explore the world. He joined the Navy as soon as he could – serving during the Korean War. He relished the life in the Navy, working hard and gaining high security clearance. There were many things he did during his service time, and he was told he could never speak of them. We only ever got bits and pieces of stories from him. He was one of their aerial photographers – strapped to the bottom of a plane as it did sweeps, taking pictures for intelligence. When pressed for more details, he would get a faraway look in his eyes and state that he took his country and duty seriously, thereby he wouldn’t give away their secrets.
He was home on leave for Christmas one year when he was invited to a party. His date of the evening, Charlene, took him to a house party. My Dad was a tall man, 6’2″ and from the pictures, very handsome. He had vivid blue eyes and black hair, with a ready smile. As it was Christmas, mistletoe was hanging in the doorway to one of the rooms. My mother was standing under it, a 5’2″ red-headed beauty, and the boys were lined up to kiss her. My Dad was one of the men in line and he told me that after he kissed her he knew she was the one for him. Before he went back to the Navy, they exchanged addresses and kept in communication. When his time of service was up, instead of staying, he came home and married my mother. They were married a mere 6 months after they met. My parents were married for 52 years before my mother died. I would have to say, that was one hell of a kiss.
As I’m sure you all are wondering why I am taking you through the history of my dad – today is his birthday. This is the first birthday of his since his death, and it has been weighing on my mind – given the fact he has crept into my posts a lot over the last few days. He would have been 78 today. I desperately wish I could call him up and wish him a Happy Birthday. I would give anything to tell him that I love him, respect him, or give him a huge hug to show I care. It astounds me at times that I no longer have my parents here. I feel bereft and alone in the world. I am surrounded by family, I have a great sister and brother and their families mean the world to me, but….. the grief I feel over the loss of my parents has been debilitating to me.
Some days are harder than others, as I’m sure any of you who have lost a loved one can understand. My children are unaware that it is my Dad’s birthday today, and yet they were scrounging through the garage and found the Hawaiian decorations I had bought one year to celebrate my Dad’s birthday. They have been having a glorious morning dressing up in hats with flowers, running through the grass, laughing, and enjoying themselves. I can picture my Dad sitting in a chair on my deck, cold pop in one hand and watching the children with a smile on his face. I have great memories of my life growing up, my children interacting with him, the special people he touched who have contacted me since his death.
I hope this tribute makes you happy, Dad. Happy Birthday.