There used to be a little hamlet named Downer in Gloucester County of Southern New Jersey -- apparently it's not there anymore -- and my dad was born there 98 years ago today, the eighth of ten children. It occurred to me that I occasionally in my blog posts mention my mother, who was born 92 years ago yesterday, but maybe never my father. Maybe because my dad was harder to know than my mom was.
It's hard to picture what my dad would have been like at age 98 -- or my mom at 92, for that matter. Dad died at 75, Mom at 66. Dad always lived in South Jersey, lived in the same house for the last 50 years of his life, worked in the same glass factory for 44 years (an accomplishment he was very proud of). He served in the Army in the Pacific during World War II in a medic unit, which was why he loved the TV show M*A*S*H so much, but he never talked about the war.
He fathered six children, of which I was the first. He was a kind, gentle man, but if he lost his temper, watch out ("the Dixon rage", we call it and which all of us have when we are pushed past a certain limit). He was devoted to my mom, and he never was the same after she died so suddenly. He died two years after she did.
Sometimes I feel bad that I didn't spend more one-on-one time with him -- a downside of being in a large family. And I wish his grandchildren and great-grandchildren could have known him. He's on my mind today.