Today, August 16th, would have been my father’s 92nd birthday. Sadly, he died when he was only 51 years old.
When I or a family member have a birthday, or I hear about an historical event that happened on or around the day and year they were born, I often think about what their parents – especially their mothers - were going through.
For instance, what was August 17th - the day after my father was born - like for my grandmother? He, the first of the 4 children she had, to be born in a hospital. She, a widow barely in her 20’s when her first child was born some 16 years earlier because her first husband was a victim of the 1918 pandemic. And then there were the 2 daughters she birthed after marrying my grandfather who died – one in infancy, and one as a toddler. And then my dad. How did she feel? Was she joyous? Or was she fretful that she would lose another child?
In 13 days, it will be my brother’s birthday. What was it like in the days when women were knocked unconscious and woke up with a baby in their arms like my mother? And then, when she went home to my dad and her 2-year-old daughter? She was half-way across the country from her family. Did she have any help? Because, frankly, growing up - unless it was discipline and gardening – my dad wasn’t a lot of help.
In diversity training classes, we talk about the idea of the ‘iceberg’ - The thing that you cannot see which is going on underneath in someone’s life.
In one class, a learner told the following story: “I had a colleague I loved working with. And in a short period of time, she became curt and would fly off the handle for no reason. Come to find out, her husband had been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. Suddenly, her change in behavior made sense.”
Where are you forgetting to remember what might be going on underneath with friends, family members and the people you work with? How can you do that better?
Happy birthday, Dad!