My father’s birthday is today. May 21st. Today he would have been 100 years old. My twin brother and I were born when he was 60. Despite his age, he was very young at heart.
Francis Isaac Mullin, Jr. was born in Emmerton, VA on May 21, 1910 in a farmhouse that, to this day, resides in our family. He was one of 8 children and some of his siblings called him “Brofancy” – a moniker for “brother Francis.”
When I was a child my father was proud of his perfectly groomed front lawn. He grew tomatoes, rhubarb, and cucumbers in a garden along the side of our split-level home in Connecticut. Every weekend, my brother and I begrudgingly assisted him in maintaining the homegrown crops, mowing the lawn, and even selling the vegetables on the side of the road to passing cars.
My father loved baseball. He was a Yankee fan, but after marrying my mother (a “die-hard New Englander”) he had to switch to the Red Sox, much like a non-Jew converting to Judaism for the sake of the family. Friends gave us free tickets to Fenway Park every summer, and since Boston was considered the safer city anyway, it edged out New York for enjoying a family day at the ballpark.
Although in his 70’s when my brother and I were growing up, my father threw himself into our sports activities, including coaching Little League with another old guy. It was like a combination of The Bucket List and Major League (I cried a lot after striking out). After games we would be treated to ice cream at Friendly’s, where all the players would flock to shovel down gigantic Reese’s Pieces Sundaes.
He relinquished his desire to have his boys play football when it was evident we would break in half after a few minutes of practice. Instead, my mother had us take up tennis. Although my father never played or followed tennis, he came to our high school matches enthusiastic and reacted to great shots like a fan at a college bowl game.
The most beloved sports moment I ever shared with my father was watching Boston College’s Miracle in Miami on our Zenith color TV in my parent’s bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed, agape at the impossibility of Doug Flutie making a touchdown pass so far away with no time remaining on the clock, it was indeed a miracle. I thought my father would have a heart attack. He probably felt the same way sitting in Yankee Stadium for Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game.
Before he entered the hospital for aortic aneurysm surgery, he saw me perform as one of the leads in my high school musical “Anything Goes.” He really enjoyed it. Although I wasn’t the sports star he had probably envisioned, he was nonetheless proud of my accomplishments on stage.
I often wonder what my father would think of today’s world. Would he see hope? Would he have voted for George Bush to a second term? Would he listen to Rush Limbaugh? Would he enjoy The Daily Show? Would he be on Facebook?
He always loved to be involved in the latest technology. It excited him. He loved playing Atari, especially the bowling game, and he would shout “Kitty Bar The Door” whenever scoring a strike. He tried to use a word processing program on our Commodore 64, but admitted there was nothing like handwriting with your favorite pen.
My father was old fashioned, but not old. Family was the most important thing to him. Hard work a close second. And third, of course, the perfect lawn.
Although the way we do things may have changed in the past 100 years, the values that made him the loving father, brother, and husband, never will.
Happy 100th Birthday Dad.