I've been thinking about him a lot these past few weeks, perhaps because he was over in France at the end of WWII. My grandmother was extremely critical of his joining the Army with three young children at home, but I've come to realize he carried a very German last name around, Hagerhorst, and living and working in the DC area must have subjected him to a lot of harrassment during the war years.
Much, much later, as he lay dying, he told me he'd been adopted, that his mother, who had lived with us, was his birth mother but his birth father had died while in the Army building the Panama Canal, probably of malaria or yellow fever. The US Army brought grandmother and her toddler son to Washington, DC, where she met and married the Army man who subsequently adopted her son. Daddy asked me to do some research. I was able to confirm many of the facts when I contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs. But I never found Daddy's birth father.
However, of the three children he and Mother had, it does appear that I inherited his DNA. We (and his birth mother) share some health concerns, and must closely watch cholesterol levels, heart functions, and other genetic factors.
Somehow, I inherited Daddy's enthusiasm, his joie d'vivre, his delight as he greeted each day as if it were a gift all shiny, just for him. He was such a happy man. He adored his wife, who, as a girl of 16, had leaned out her 3rd floor window, showing her best girlfriend this tall, lanky young man walking down the DC street, smiling at everyone, stopping to talk to a neighbor, to a shopkeeper. "I'm going to marry him!" she announced to her girlfriend, "but I have to figure out how to meet him first!" Daddy was 19, an older man, already working to help his widowed Mom and two brothers survive after the death of her second husband. Mother's girlfriend advised her to have a big birthday party and, after she managed to find out Daddy's name from the neighbors, to send him a written invitation to come to the party. This would have been about 1933.
The family story is that they danced at Mother's birthday party all night long. That's a bit of a stretch; I can't imagine my maternal grandmother allowing such a thing in 1933, nor would Daddy's mother have allowed him to stay out all night, not her eldest son, not her son who was working two jobs to support the family.
I do recall his telling me that he bought Mother an engagement ring, paying 50 cents a week at the local jeweler's, and his Mom was terribly upset to find that amount of money missing from his pay envelope.
When they married, after Mother graduated from high school at 18, they honeymooned in Atlantic City and came back to his room, in his Mother's apartment, to discover that my tiny Grandmother had somehow pushed the heavy furniture around so that he couldn't close the bedroom door! Daddy groaned, then laughed, and spent an hour moving the furniture back where it belonged. Soon after, they moved to a tiny apartment of their own, above a grocery store, and Daddy's two younger brothers found employment to support their Mom.
When I came along, Daddy would rock me and sing to me along with the music on the radio. Later, I learned to dance by standing on his shoes. Life with Daddy was always full of music, song, dancing on the kitchen lineoleum. He could tap dance! We always thought he should have been in vaudeville, only it was past that time, and he soon had three of us to support, again working two jobs, delivering laundry in the very early mornings and driving a cab at night, so he could go to school during the daytime hours to eventually become an electrical engineer. One who could tapdance.
Labels: Mother and Daddy meet and marry