A Happy Father’s Day

June 19, 2011

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A great surprise at my family reunion yesterday in Warsaw Virginia. My Aunt Jane gave my brother and I an old photograph of my father (on the left) with his Brother, my Uncle Bunt. The location of the photo is unknown (pre geotagging) but my Aunt guesses it is around 1940. My father would have been 30 years old at the time and his younger brother would have been around 21 or 22 and in the Coast Guard.

The picture still lives in an old frame. I snapped a photo of it from my IPhone and plan to scan it later. And although it looks like I put a Hipstamatic filter to it, it was already colorized the way you see it now. I guess back then color photography treatment rendered some pretty cool effects. Kind of funny to think we now build technology on our most advanced devices to mimic this bygone look.

My father was always a snappy dresser. And of course no one would be seen without a cigarette in those days. I don’t know if my father would wear a bow tie on just any occasion, so I think this photo could have been taken during Thanksgiving or Christmas. My father is wearing what seems like a wool overcoat and his brother is in uniform on leave from his Coast Guard duties.

I used to see more of a resemblance to my brother in older photos of my father. But now I see a lot of me. Although I am not as close to a great dresser as my father was in his day.

Another great treat was able to visit my father’s birthplace and farmhouse in nearby Emmerton, VA. My father was born in 1910 in this home pictured below. My Half Brother Fran has owned the farmhouse, called Miskell Hall, since my father passed in 1987. Getting on in years himself, he is planning to sell it and the vast amounts of farmland. Yesterday may have been the last time we could see it.

When my brother Tim and I were younger, our family would go to the farmhouse every July and celebrate family reunions there. It was a great place. As a small child running through fields of endless corn stalks you felt you were on another planet. We have fond memories of that place. I had always remembered an amazing watercolor painting of Miskell Hall and in fact, during our drive down from Baltimore yesterday I asked my brother what he thought happened to it. We thought it got lost or given away after my father died or perhaps Fran had it in some storage locker. To our surprise when the current tenant of the house welcomed us in, there it was hanging front and center in the living room. (last photo below)

The tenant explained that when she moved in, the watercolor painting was left and she has hung it in the living room ever since. When we said we remembered the watercolor fondly, she offered it to us. We declined and my cousin Lou who was with us assured it’s safety if the farmhouse was sold.

I feel so fortunate on this Father’s Day to have been given so many memories and enjoyed them with family.

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My Father Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today

May 21, 2010

My father at his surpise 75th birthday party in 1985.

My father’s birthday is today.  May 21st.  Today he would have been 100 years old. My twin brother and I were born when he was 60.   Despite his age, he was very young at heart.

Francis Isaac Mullin, Jr. was born in Emmerton, VA on May 21, 1910 in a farmhouse that, to this day, resides in our family.  He was one of 8 children and some of his siblings called him “Brofancy” – a moniker for “brother Francis.”

When I was a child my father was proud of his perfectly groomed front lawn.  He grew tomatoes, rhubarb, and cucumbers in a garden along the side of our split-level home in Connecticut.  Every weekend, my brother and I begrudgingly assisted him in maintaining the homegrown crops, mowing the lawn, and even selling the vegetables on the side of the road to passing cars.

My father loved baseball. He was a Yankee fan, but after marrying my mother (a “die-hard New Englander”) he had to switch to the Red Sox, much like a non-Jew converting to Judaism for the sake of the family.  Friends gave us free tickets to Fenway Park every summer, and since Boston was considered the safer city anyway, it edged out New York for enjoying a family day at the ballpark.

Although in his 70’s when my brother and I were growing up, my father threw himself into our sports activities, including coaching Little League with another old guy.  It was like a combination of The Bucket List and Major League (I cried a lot after striking out).  After games we would be treated to ice cream at Friendly’s, where all the players would flock to shovel down gigantic Reese’s Pieces Sundaes.

He relinquished his desire to have his boys play football when it was evident we would break in half after a few minutes of practice.  Instead, my mother had us take up tennis.  Although my father never played or followed tennis, he came to our high school matches enthusiastic and reacted to great shots like a fan at a college bowl game.

The most beloved sports moment I ever shared with my father was watching Boston College’s Miracle in Miami on our Zenith color TV in my parent’s bedroom.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, agape at the impossibility of Doug Flutie making a touchdown pass so far away with no time remaining on the clock, it was indeed a miracle. I thought my father would have a heart attack.  He probably felt the same way sitting in Yankee Stadium for Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game.

Before he entered the hospital for aortic aneurysm surgery, he saw me perform as one of the leads in my high school musical “Anything Goes.”  He really enjoyed it. Although I wasn’t the sports star he had probably envisioned, he was nonetheless proud of my accomplishments on stage.

I often wonder what my father would think of today’s world.  Would he see hope? Would he have voted for George Bush to a second term?  Would he listen to Rush Limbaugh?  Would he enjoy The Daily Show? Would he be on Facebook?

He always loved to be involved in the latest technology. It excited him.  He loved playing Atari, especially the bowling game, and he would shout “Kitty Bar The Door” whenever scoring a strike.  He tried to use a word processing program on our Commodore 64, but admitted there was nothing like handwriting with your favorite pen.

My father was old fashioned, but not old.  Family was the most important thing to him.  Hard work a close second.  And third, of course, the perfect lawn.

Although the way we do things may have changed in the past 100 years, the values that made him the loving father, brother, and husband, never will.

Happy 100th Birthday Dad.