We got seated at the local Cheescake Factory, my father looked over at the sign I had brought to prop up at the side of the table, and asked, "Does this place really have 100 tables?" while pointing at the sign.
He thought we had been given Table #98. Nope, it was his birthday, year #98, born 3/25/1916.
The day my father was born was the last day in the life of Ishi, "widely acclaimed in his life as the 'last wild Indian' in America." When I was in graduate school at UC, Berkeley I would see the book about Ishi's life in the bookstores, as it was anthropologists at UCB who studied him and wrote his life story in 1961. The book looked interesting, but I never read it.
I never made any connection between Ishi and my father, until today. If I had known this connection back then, I would have read the book. And maybe I will now!
It's rather intriguing to me that the subtitle of the Theodora Kroeber book about Ishi was "In Two Worlds," very similar to the title I gave my blog, "Two Worlds in One." A fun kind of serendipity.
Other Events on That Day
Women were allowed to attend a boxing match. What match, in what city? The Internet did not tell me.
Henry Biederbick died on that day. He was one of only six survivors of the 25 member Greely Expedition of 1881 to the Arctic, where the team was abandoned for three years. Biederbick went on to be active in the National Geographic Society, Explorers' Club and the Arctic Club.
HENRY G. DALTON (Hull#713) was launched into Lake Erie on that day at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co., for the Interlake Steamship Co., Cleveland, Ohio – the company's first 600 footer. I went to college at Oberlin College, twenty minutes to the south. If we wanted to see Lake Erie, we would drive up Highway 58 to Lorain. My brother got his doctorate in Cleveland at Case-Western Reserve.
We Brought That Sign!
Sure enough, I had made that sign in Word and brought it in a large white envelope. "Remember, it's your birthday today, now you're 98 years old," my brother reminded him.
Now it dawned on him why that sign was there and he got a good laugh at himself and how he had misunderstood the sign before. We were there to celebrate his birthday and that meant he was going to get a sweet dessert, some pie or cake. In fact before we left for the restaurant, he had said that he wanted to eat three different kinds of pie. Nothing makes my father happier than pies and cakes. He had been very fortunate when he selected my mother as his wife, because she made great desserts their entire marriage, most famous for her legendary cherry pie and her lemon meringue pie, with the feather light meringue stacked very high on top of the lemon. She had been gone many years and the desserts had never been as good after that.
My brother learned how to make the cherry pie, as we have her recipe. I talked Marcia into trying it one time, but it turned out to be a disaster. The crust was the hard part and she didn't get that part right, so you could say that she made cherry cobbler that day, not cherry pie.
Linda's Fudge Cake
We had tipped off the staff about what the sign meant. So after he finished eating his chicken and biscuits and asked for a doggie bag to take home the rest, three or four of the staff came over to the table with a piece of Linda's Fudge Cake, a single candle lit on top of it.
Of course we all sang along to the Happy Birthday Song. Dad posed for a picture, blew out the candle, and dove into the cake. There was no doggie bag needed for any of that cake. He ate every last bit of it. We forgot to ask him whether he had made a wish, but clearly he had already gotten one wish with that piece of cake. He was 98 years old, but I bet he could take care of a piece of fudge cake just about the same way when he was eight.
Our father is generally quite healthy. He takes no medications of any kind. He used to use inhalers every day for his COPD, but he gave those up several years ago when he decided he didn't need them. And he didn't. He's hard of hearing, so we got him a hearing aid, but he quit using that too, so we just had to talk louder. During the dinner he told us he had only one regret or complaint about getting older, and that was the fact that his memory is very bad. His short-term memory, that is.
As we ate, he told us about his aunt who used to love to feed him and about how she made her own root beer and how one day the cork popped on one of the bottles, bouncing off the ceiling, with root beer sprayed all about the kitchen. Those happy times are still with him, laughing as he told the story.
My father has always been the story teller in our extended family.
When he turns 100, we're gonna ask him what his secret is for a long life, like they always do. After we got home and he had looked at his birthday cards and opened his presents, he said he would let us know after he decides whether he's gonna shoot for 104 or 105, or just what age.
At dinner I had told him, "Look, when I turn 98, you're gonna be 128. Who's gonna take care of us then??!"