my father’s birthday
one hundred and one today
century plus one
I will always regret that I was not able to introduce my kids to their grand father.
But there it is.
Not much you can do.
But I can imagine what he might have done and might have said.
And I think he would have enjoyed where I ended up living along the South Carolina coast.
I cannot go to a restaurant down here and not say to myself, “Dad would have liked this place.”
Dad enjoyed food and he enjoyed a good restaurant.
It made him very happy to go a to famous restaurant and order what they were famous for and have the meal live up to the promise.
Conversely not much disappointed him more than a restaurant that FAILED to live up the promise.
Little did many restaurants know that they had had the kiss of death when my Dad would announce that he had “Crossed them off his list.”
He also had a way to look forward to a meal at a famous restaurant in a way that some kids look forward to Christmas.
And he planned many a family outing AROUND restaurants.
They fact that he 11 children just seemed to add to the challenge and the enjoyment.
At Zender’s in Frankenmuth (which we went to the day AFTER he took us all to see Mark Fidrych pitch at a Tiger Game) I think he got a kick out of walking up to the desk and placing an order for the FAMILY CHICKEN DINNER FOR 18.
When the parade of waiters and waitresses came out with platter after platter of Zender’s Chicken and fix’ns, Dad enjoyed the meal even more.
There was Ann Sathers (found by my sister Mary) in Chicago.
There was New Hellas Café in Greektown.
Include the Gandy Dancer and Angelo’s in Ann Arbor.
I wasn’t born yet but he took everyone to Brennan’s in New Orleans.
He also famously arranged his and Mom’s 25th wedding anniversary Sunday celebration at Win Schuler’s in Grand Haven, Michigan.
Again all of us were there including Grandpa and Grandma Hendrickson.
There was one drawback to this dinner though.
They had got married early in May in 1946 and in 1971, their anniversary, their 25th, happened to land on Mother’s Day.
Schuler’s took our reservation but they also took reservations from everyone else in Ottawa County that day.
To my 11 year old mind, the food was great but we sat in that restaurant FOREVER.
My Dad was not all about fancy either.
If he liked something, he really enjoyed it and he didn’t care where it was.
I remember once he called me when I was finishing up a school term in Ann Arbor.
I am coming to get you tonight. Can you be packed?
I was more than a little surprised.
I had had my last exam earlier that day.
I was planning on spending a couple days in Ann Arbor finishing up on all the things you need to finish up.
I was not packed that was for sure.
But Dad was my ride and I told him that I would be ready.
Later that same day as I was moving boxes out on to the porch of where I was living that term, my Dad pulled into the driveway.
One of the time-space things I wrestle with is that when Dad was driving down to Ann Arbor to drop off or pick us kids up, it have been less than 40 years that he had been at school in Ann Arbor.
I think back to where I was 40 years ago and yes its a long time and a lot of water under the bridge, but it still doesn’t seem that long ago.
He knew his way around Ann Arbor and I think he enjoyed that.
He enjoyed talking to the other students.
One of my room mates was leaving on his way to library to ‘study one more time for the final’ he told my Dad.
My Dad raised his hand palm out and swiped it down to the left and said, “Ahhh if you don’t know by now, you’ll never know it.”
Dad never knew how I took that message to heart.
Dad looks at me and my boxes and says ‘Load them up” and opened the back tailgate of the station wagon.
As I tossed stuff into the car he leans over the tailgate as says, ‘Thanks for being ready.”
I smiled at him and he had this goofy grin that showed up when he had something goofy to say or do.
Like the time he bought a new TV and snuck it into the house before Mom could see it.
While he plugged it in and worked on the cables he told me and my brother Pete to bring the old TV down to the basement.
He figured Mom would never notice.
And she didn’t.
Until my little brother Al said to her the next day, “how do you turn the new TV on?”
I knew something was up by the grin so I waited.
“I had to get out of there,” Dad said.
My Dad then said that some lady had called from Church and needed Dad at a meeting.
Dad told Mom he couldn’t go to the meeting as he was driving to Ann Arbor to pick me up.
“So I had to leave,” Dad said with that goofy grin.
I just smiled back and finished packing.
Dad then said he had stopped on the way down and got himself a new McDonalds steak sandwich.
“They are only available for a short time,” Dad said.
“We can stop on the way home and I’ll get you one if you want.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
“If you get one, I guess I’ll get one too,” said my Dad with his goofy grin.
We stopped at McDonald’s in Brighton, Michigan on a warm spring evening I think in 1981.
We sat together and ate McDonald’s Streak Sandwich’s.
And we talked a lot about nothing at all.
I think my Dad would have enjoyed the restaurants down here on the South Carolina Atlantic coast.
I can remember the way he described going to Baltimore seafood joints for crab served on brown butcher paper back when we would visit my brother Paul when he and his family lived in Maryland.
If he had been able to visit us here in Bluffton, I think he would have said he was ready to order a low country boil the minute he got out of the car.
And he would have looked at me and said, “You can order one too, if we go right now.”
And we would have gone to Hudson’s or Salty Dog or Crazy Crab and peeled and ate shrimp and had corn on the cob with redskin potatoes and sausage.
And we would have talked a lot about nothing at all.