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Happy Birthday Joe Raymond
Birthday's come and go, but this one stayed long enough to remind me of the wonderful man who was my father
August 15, 1919
A baby boy was born to immigrant parents in Cincinnati Ohio.
It must have been a home birth since those were the norm back in those days.
He was the youngest in a family which had 3 sons and 1 daughter. Not much is known about those early years of his life, except where he lived.
In a family of exceedingly good looking brothers and a stunning sister, this man, the youngest of them, was, according to photos, somewhat gawky. He was tall. Well over 6 ft and thin. Painfully thin as a young man. His nose was his most prominent feature followed by his famous "chiseled chin".
Urban legend has it that his nose had been broken many times which lent even more prominence to the nose that already stood out.
One didnt need to ask how that nose got broken. It was understood, in those days, that if someone maligned your family or your heritage, you made sure they never did again. It was, I am told, a code of honor to defend your family.
Being 2nd generation Lebanese made you stand out and not always in a positive way. But I believe in those days, it was de rigueur to take care of the problem first and ask questions later.
But, despite this streak of "fists in the air", he was blessed with the kindest heart and the most ready smile and the ability to light up a room with that smile. He may have been the youngest, but he was easily the glue which held that family together. He became mentor to a niece and nephew whose own father died tragically at the age of 35. So this young man, born to immigrant parents, took over as more a patriarch than a son or brother.
There are words written, far more eloquently than I can manage, to describe people like this man. I think there are many who would agree that those words applied to him.
He was humble. Appreciative of what he had been given. There was certainly no monetary wealth which is, after all,easy to be grateful for. But he was appreciative of his family. Those immigrant parents who had not only given him life, but instilled in him a strong gratitude for the country that had welcomed them into its arms. They taught him, by their example, what it meant to work hard, to be satisfied with a job well done and how to keep striving for goals.
He never let his love for his parents and the respect he felt they were owed to be forgotten. And in his mind, they were the reason he was the man he was.
"Pop" as he called his father, was very much a hero to him and his sweet mother, who accepted her role in the new world with quiet dignity and a smile on her face, earned not only his love, but his tender gentleness as well.
This man married eventually, after serving in World War II and set about the serious business of settling down.
He wasnt to know that the woman he chose for his life partner, would bring to their union a history of problems which challenged even his easygoing and placid nature. But he loved her and that love fought thru the worst of her problems and that love always won out in the end. He was her protector, her shield against the hurts of the cruel world she had grown up in and her tower of strength.
They had a baby daughter. She was born in 1951 and grew up in the loving, protective shadow of this man who thought the world revolved around her. He delighted in everything she did.
Words werent easy to come by back then. But words werent really necessary because his love for her was visible in everything he did for her.
When a child is well loved, the child grows up steady and strong, just like an oak tree. And that little girl knew that she was loved by that great man who was not only brother and son and husband, but now her Daddy.
Life moved on. There is an unmistakable feeling that we all have that it will last forever. There is a feeling that the heat of life, will never ebb and that the sun will always shine and the envelope of love that we feel will always be there and that nothing bad can ever happen to us. We think in terms of the future and plan for it and dream of it.
This man did that too. He had this daughter whom he had plans for. He wanted her to do great things and she knew that he would help her go thru life learning the right way to live so that she could have as wonderful a life as he had had.
It wasnt to be. It wasnt meant to happen. And one day, this man who had lived life as though he was squeezing every, last drop out of every, single day, found out that those days were numbered and he accepted that the bastard cancer would win and that nothing he could do, no "fists in the air" would change the cold, hard-hearted knowledge that he would die well before his time.
The day came and it went and the days after, came and went and those days turned into years and those years piled on top of the years before and one day, the little girl become a wife and a mother herself and she remembered everything about him and all the things he taught her and hoped for her and she turned to the heavens and thanked him.
Happy Birthday, Joe Raymond