In deciding how to begin this blog, I looked 2 words up in the online dictionary: hero and admire. "Admire" is the best fit since "to admire" has 2 definitions that are appropriate to these musings:
-To regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval
-To have a high opinion of; esteem or respect.
There are 3 people I greatly admire. One of the qualities that they all share is a birthdate: May 29.
May 29, 1917 is the birthdate of the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I was in 8th grade when Kennedy ran for President. I was enamored of this young, vibrant, energetic man with the beautiful young wife and small daughter. I asked my parents, repeatedly, if they would vote for him. My dad raised the issue of "why"? So I set about answering his question.
My parents were both born and raised in the City of Chicago; thus, Chicago Democrats. A little known fact about my family is that my paternal grandma was a first cousin with Otto Kerner. Yes, THAT Otto Kerner, the first of our many Illinos Governors to go to prison (although, he was "framed".) But I knew they were poised to vote for Richard Nixon.
I began to read about Kennedy in earnest. I wrote a paper on him for English Class and my teacher asked if I'd consider being on the debate team that would "argue" against the Nixon side as to who would make a better President. I quickly agreed and learned and studied even more. I so respected my dad and his opinions and intellect that I wanted to bring a solid case before him.
When Kennedy visited Aurora prior to his election, I stood in the rain in front of the (now) old City Hall Building and waited for 2 hours to catch a glimpse of him. It happened: I saw him, in person, in the flesh. This fact did not go unnoticed by my parents.
Our "side" won the debate and the student body of Waldo Jr. High held a mock election. Kennedy won! Night after night leading up to that debate, I filled my parents ears with everything I'd learned. My dad and I could go back and forth as he took the Nixon part. I realized that this was the first election that my sister would vote in so dinner time included her ears as well. We would sit, the four of us, night after night, reviewing the facts.
One night, tired and wondering if I'd made my point, I burst into tears and said, "Well, Dad, you share a birthday with him!" My dad slowly smiled, reached out and touched my cheek and said, "I decided to vote for him a week ago; I should have told you then." Mom and my sister agreed as they nodded their heads with big smiles on their faces.
By now you have figured out that the 2nd person I admire who shares the May 29th date is my dad.
Robert Lee Weber was born on May 29, 1914. My dad was smart, had a quick wit, and read voraciously. His love of music spanned from opera to Frank Sinatra to jazz. I grew up with the hi-fi blaring. My memories of dad include him listening to his music while reading a book. Books were stacked all around his chair.
My dad was in World War II, though he didn't have to be. He was 30 years old when he went to enlist. My Mom wasn't too happy about his enlisting; the had a 2 year old daughter (not me) and she was afraid, of course, that he wouldn't come home. As Dad said to me when I'd asked why he went "when you didn't have to",
"I was an able bodied male, blonde, blue-eyed, of German descent. The country of my ancestors invaded my home country; my grandparents didn't come to America to have it destroyed by ruthless German despots."
Of course I didn't know Dad before the war but Mom said he was never the same when he came home. Physical injuries and the memories of what he saw stayed with him always. Oh, he worked and had a life but visions of War were always with him. He was with the troops when they liberated the concentration camps. "That is the day I quit believing in God; my God would never let those atrocities happen."
My dad encouraged me to work hard. He was a Latin scholar in high school so I took Latin and won awards. My love of reading and music came from both of my parents but my dad taught me tolerance for all people. He taught me that we owe a debt to society and if we can, it is our job to help those who can't help themselves. In a way, this goes back to the Kennedy mantra of "to whom much is given, much is expected."
In early July of 1976, my then-husband and I received a call from Lutheran Child and Family Services where we had placed our name to adopt a third child. "We have a girl; 2 months old; the darling of the hospital nursery; born May 29..." My world stopped. My heart filled with joy. "When can we have her?" I asked. In two days, we held this special bundle of joy who was born on dad's birthday; and on John F. Kennedy's birthday. We named her Jennifer Susan. Many of you reading this know her as "Jen" or "Peeka". She lives in Yorkville and blogs for this very same Patch. She creates websites. She creates friendships, joy, and happiness wherever she is. She lives by the rule of karma.
Jennifer was a fairly easy child to raise; many in the family referred to her as "the bubble". She was not quite 3 when my dad died from emphysema but they'd had 2 birthdays together. Dad thought it was a hoot!
Jennifer had this infectious smile that just radiated. When my mom would walk into the room, Jen would shout, "Bee Bop" and reach her arms to my mom. Had my mom lived, she would still be called Bee Bop today by, at least, that grandchild.
One definition of "admire" is to regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval. This began for me during Jen's very young years. In kindergarten, when asked if she wanted to invite all of her female classmates to her birthday party, she replied, "No, I want ALL of the kids to come." "All????" I asked? "All", she replied. So, we had 27 children in our backyard for a birthday for a 6 year old!
This all-inclusiveness continues today. Another incident was when we moved to Aurora from West Dundee when Jennifer was about to begin the 4th grade. Some of the girls from an under privileged area threatened to beat her up. Not having any idea why this would occur, she invited them home to play. Crisis averted!
Today, in addition to raising a 5 year old and working, gardening, and maintaining the myriad of friendships she has, Jen is the webmaster/volunteer extraordinaire for the agency I founded in 1998. (May 29, 1998 is the incorporation date of Suicide Prevention Services of America. Coincidence? I think not!)
I "have a high opinion of" and I hold in "esteem and respect" people who say what they mean and mean what they say. I respect people who live by the Christian principles or the Judeo principles or the Budhist principles and/or karma. However it is stated, doing to others what you would have them do to you is how I see these 3 people who share a birthdate.