I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. But the truth is, I can’t think of any way to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Babe’s birth, which is today. If he had survived World War II, would he have lived to see his 90th year? Who knows? His family was a mixed bag. None of them lived that long, though several lived into their 80s.
His father died years and years before I was born in 1963. He was nowhere near 90. Babe’s mother died in the mid-1980s (shame on me for not remembering exactly when), and I know she was in her 80s when she died. His older brother Vin died in 2009; he was around 86. His younger brother died in 2011; he was 83. My mother, the baby of the family, is the outlier. She died in 2011 of cancer when she was 71.
***A note about the photo below: I recently discovered this photocopy of a photograph that I believe is Babe, obviously before he went into the army. I’m not sure, but I think this is in front of Mount Kisco High School. I don’t know who the girls in the photo are. If this is Babe’s picture, it’s the only other picture of him I know of besides his army portrait. Note the cigarette in his left hand.
The only thing that occurs to me when I think about my Uncle Babe’s 90th birthday is how young he was when he was killed: five months shy of his 21st birthday. Television wasn’t widely available then. The polio vaccine had not yet been invented. The atomic age began a few months after he died. In the state where I now call home, Missouri, Winston Churchill coined the phrase “iron curtain” in a speech nearly a year after Babe died. The Cold War was on.
In short, the amount of change in the United States that he missed just staggers my mind. I wish I had something more profound to say than that.