Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Uncelebrated Birthday - Being 60 (week 21 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Yesterday was my Pop's 86th birthday.

It was the second birthday we couldn't call and wish him a Happy Birthday.  He died January 20, 2009.

We're still getting used to the changes in our family's dynamics.  Our old guard is passing away.  Only a handful are left.  Our generation is becoming the old guard.  Our babies are now adults, some with babies of their own.

For a boomer, who knew this could happen?

Funny the things one remembers about a parent.  Pop loved gardening and raising rabbits.  For the longest time he had a wall of cages perpetually filled with rabbits along a side of his garage.  Rabbits were a regular dinner item in Maltese homes and Ma cooked Pop's pets the good old Maltese way.  

Pop always wanted to live on a farm.  My parents hated the winters in New York.  They are longer and harsher than the winters in Malta.  

I don't know how we managed it, but Paul and I always lived in rural areas in Canada.  Pop loved that.  He even talked of buying a farm near our house when we lived in British Columbia.  

He didn't love what he'd heard about winters in Canada, but then again, who does.

Yesterday Eddie Fisher passed away at 82.  It seems his biggest claims to fame were his messy divorces and his being the father of Princess Leia.  My parents used to love listening to Eddie sing.  They turned a deaf ear to talk of his divorces.  

A few years after Eddie was an innocent heart throb, his songs became fodder for my High School Glee Club.  We weren't anything like TV's new hit Glee.  Sister Rose Cecelia stuck to family values and having us stand like statues as we sang.  

To be fair, so did the professional Motown singers.   

Well, Sister's idea of a showstopper was having matched songs.  One year she decided on parenthood as a theme.  There were 2 Italian songs about Mama and Papa floating around.  Roselyn Genovese was perfect for the Mama song.  Unfortunately, she was the only Italian in the bunch.

Sister looked at me.  I would sing Eddie Fisher's Oh, My Papa.  With Italian lyrics.  

Sure, why not?  I was studying Latin and Spanish.  What's a few lines in Italian?  I'm Maltese.  I could pass.   

Most of the audience was fifth generation American, from German and Irish stock, so what did they know?       

The night of the concert my parents overheard other parents commenting on "the 2 Italian girls" and how nice it was that they could sing in their mother tongue.

Pop just smirked.  I was good enough to fool the natives.

O, My Papa. 

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