This month, my Father would have been 99 years old.
That seems weird because he only lived for 47 years
I asked my 3 sisters what they thought Dad might have been like if he lived these additional 52 years and any memories or thoughts they have of “the old man”.
What they shared with me was insightful, heart-warming and not suprising.
My youngest sister, Jerry, was just 12 when Dad left us on October 13th in 1969.
She remembered wishing she was older, as the adults around the house were not crying and our loss seemed “easier” on them than her.
She doesn’t have many actual memories of our Father but she knows he would have loved the fact that she ended up living on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Pelee is where that Type “A” personality totally unwound when our family would vacation there on the last week of July, first week of August every year.
We stayed in “Holtzie’s Cottages” on North Bay and we all have photos of empty cases of Labatt’s Blue and Old Vienna stacked behind the door of the cottage we always rented.
The women and kids would all take the Pelee Islander passenger ferry from Sandusky, Ohio to the Canadian waters.
The men, and an older male child or two would cruise up on our 21 foot cabin cruiser, called the “SIJON”.
Part of the routine involved the Sijon circling the Pelee Islander before it docked.
I didn’t know how much this annoyed the Pelee Islander crew which Jerry shared with me since she worked with the transportation company.
Middle sister, Jeanne, all of 14 when Dad died, talked about his photography with the 35mm camera, featuring lots of photos of gorgeous sunsets, a glass smooth lake, or towering thunder clouds on the horizon.
And lots of pictures of his kids, which he was clearly proud of.
Oldest sister, Charlene (Chuckie), was 16 when we lost our Father and she said she felt he loved being a Dad.
He would have been in his “happy place” with all the grandkids and great grandkids he would have today.
She can envision him with youngsters sitting around as they patiently showed him how to use an iPad, cellphone or earbuds.
Jerry wagered that if she took him on a ride around Pelee Island, he’d point out the canal he and Bob Traicoff seined crawdads from, for the umpteenth time.
Remember those pictures of that slimy, dark gray mud on the guy’s legs and arms?
Chuckie said our old Father would have still been a sharp-dressed man except on the weekends.
And, on Pelee.
There’d be an unshaven face topped by a blue tam purchased at the Trading Post and a cigarette nearby, along with a beer.
Jeanne remembered all the albums in our basement displayed along the knotty pine walls.
His collection would have been the envy of vinyl lovers today because he kept them in mint condition…except for the one I put on top of his amplifier (which he built from a kit) and it warped.
Jeanne remembered he lived long enough to see 8-track cartridges, but he was a vinyl guy which would put him in the “Ultra Cool Club” today.
His music tastes ran the gamut.
I knew him as a “big band” and Sinatra guy.
As a kid, I didn’t like Kenton, Ellington, Basie and the like and I tolerated “old Blue Eyes” because Dad let me play my 45’s on his stereo gear.
He actually bought “Walk Right In” by the Rooftop Singers and Jeanne pointed out that he, not the 3 teens living in the house at the time, actually bought the first Beatles album that made in into our house.
Our Dad was a “gadget guy” as sister Charlene pointed out and Jeanne thought PC’s and computer graphics would have been wonderful in his hands, guided by his creative mind.
I often wonder what sort of neat things he could have created with my crafty wife.
When it came to “new technology”, Dad always had to have it NOW!
I often thought he could have saved money by waiting just a bit while the “kinks” got worked out.
But he had to have the “new stuff” yesterday.
Jerry wished Dad could have accompanied her hubby Howard on the trap and pound boat when fishing was really good on Lake Erie.
He probably would have enjoyed it even better if the lake was rolling and the winds were howling.
All 3 sisters said they were sure Dad would have loved to talk with grandson Brandon, a bit of a WWII buff.
I regret not having those talks about his Army experiences in the European Theatre.
I remember him once telling me about a foxhole mate that he looked away from for a moment, only to have him killed by a piece of shrapnel.
When I told him I planned to join the USAF, he kidded me that the uniform would make me look like a bus driver.
But I knew he was proud of my choice.
Dad was a voracious reader but Jeanne felt (and I agree) that he’ stick to hard-bound books and paperbacks even though he could listen to them or read them on an iPad.
Memories are funny.
I’ve come to believe that the good times weren’t really as great as we recall any more than the things we fear today will really turn out to be that bad.
But we all have a sore spot in our heart when we wonder just how things might be today if we had John Francis Foster, our Father, still with us today.
We believe he would be proud of what we’ve done with our lives, as broadly different as we all turned out.
Each one of us carries a bit of him in us.
His impact was strong since it’s been 52 years since he looked any of us in the eye.
Jerry has a picture Dad gave her.
On the back, he wrote, “To the last in the line of greats”.
For four children, that speaks volumes about the guy we call “Dad”.
Bob Hope sang it best.
“Thanks for the memories!”