Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remembering Daddy

Daddy's birthday would have been June 20, so it always fell near Father's Day. For most of his life, we believed that he was born in 1900. Like many blacks born in the south in those days, he didn't have a birth certificate, and relied on something scribbled in the family Bible. It wasn't until he applied for Medicare that we found out what we had long suspected. Daddy was born before 1900. We knew he remembered the Wright Brother's flight in Kitty Hawk a little too vividly to have been only three-years-old.

The Medicare application required a birth certificate to prove that he was 65. Since he didn't have one, they would accept the birth certificates of two of his children to substantiate his age by the age he gave on the children's birth certificates. The trouble was, Daddy wasn't consistent about his age. For a child born in February 1926, he said his age was 26, disregarding the fact that he had not passed his birthday, June 20 of that year. For a child born in July 1931, Daddy showed his age was 31.

That sent the Medicare folks to looking at the Census for 1900. There he was listed with the family as a child. So he qualified for Medicare all right, but the discovery became a source of family amusement for the rest of his life. Daddy passed away in 1968, and the not-so-old age of WHO KNOWS.

Excerpt from my memoir:

When I started school in Petersburg, I was in the afternoon class for first grade at Giles B. Cook Elementary. Daddy walked me to school everyday until he decided I could handle it alone. Instead of telling me I was old enough to go by myself, one morning he was especially slow getting ready. I waited with my book bag in hand, and nagged him that I would be late for school. It was important to be there in time for lunch, when I could eat my bologna sandwich and have a carton of school chocolate milk. After I had nagged for a while, Daddy told me to go on, and he would catch up. I went off down the street, watching for Daddy to catch up. By the time I reached the corner where I would turn, I could see Daddy leaving the house. He followed me at a distance from there on, and at every turn, I would look back to make sure he was still following me. There were no major streets to cross and hardly ever a car passing at that time of day anyway. By the time I reached the school, Daddy was not even in sight, so I waited until I could see him, and waved good-bye as I went into the school building. I was on my own from then on.

The photo is Daddy with my sister Toni and me, on the campus of Virginia State College. My mother finally received her four-year degree the same year that my oldest brother did. They graduated together from Virginia State College.

1 comment:

unlen said...

Interesting, my dad had the same issues with his birthday. In his day, mid-wives attended most births and many were sloppy record keepers. The family bible was the official source of family vital statistics. I remember beginning in aw of thumbing through it's pages. Unfortunately, the bible was lost in a fire. This is a common tragedy for many family bibles.