Tag Archives: titanic

Dad’s 81st birthday

Today would have been Dad’s 81st birthday. I never expected my father to live that far into old age, as I always suspected his nearly lifelong smoking habit would catch up to him sooner rather than later. Despite being diagnosed with COPD and emphysema he never suffered the severe consequences of those diseases. He wasn’t one of those people who needed to carry an oxygen tank with him or who could not walk a few steps without getting out of breath. He remained in decent physical shape until the last few months of his life. It was the parts of his brain that stopped working properly that caused him the biggest health-related issues.

A visit with the ducks.

A visit with the ducks.

Today is a beautiful spring day where I live. Okay the pollen that has covered everything in town with a yellow dust isn’t so pretty but the experts claim that doesn’t cause the bad allergy reactions. I wasn’t going to let a little pollen stop me from honoring Dad’s birthday. I took a walk through the park, imagining how much Dad would have enjoyed such beautiful scenery. I visited the lake with the ducks and a pair came right up on the platform where I was for awhile before honking and taking off. I always enjoy seeing the ducks as it reminds me of happy childhood memories of visiting the park with my parents and feeding the ducks. And those honks made me think of Dad’s impersonations of Donald Duck that I loved so much as a little girl.

A Titanic souvenir.

A Titanic souvenir.

Next I finally made it to the Titanic exhibit. I know Dad would have loved to see the old photographs and recovered items from the world’s most famous ship. You receive a boarding pass with a name of an actual Titanic passenger with your ticket. At the end of the exhibit you get to see if “your” passenger survived or perished. Sadly, my passenger was Mrs. Benjamin Peacock who perished along with her two small children. They were coming to America to join Mr. Peacock who had already arrived in the U.S. the year before and was awaiting their arrival in New Jersey. The whole family was supposed to travel together but the wife was ill at the time and so her husband went on ahead of the family until she was well enough to travel. Sadly, that coincided with the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

I’m going to wrap up the day with an Irish whiskey toast. Last year I had just started a new job so I didn’t have time to honor Dad’s 80th birthday properly. Today I felt Dad’s presence with me throughout the day and I’m glad I was able to mark Dad’s birthday in a special way.

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Dad’s hometown gets media attention

As the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking takes place this month, I want to dedicate some blog posts in April to the Titanic’s history. As I’ve mentioned before, dad was a Titanic fanatic, on the same level as he was obsessed with the Kennedy family. He used to relay stories about the Titanic to us at the dinner table, and his knowledge of the ship’s fascinating and tragic history was impressive.

The Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City, April 10, 1912. File photo.

Dad had good reason to be interested in the Titanic. The ship was built in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The city has opened their own homage to the ship, called Titanic Belfast. Shipbuilding was one of Belfast’s major industries at the time the Titanic was built. The famous shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff built the Titanic, beginning in 1909. The company is still in existence today, with a new focus on renewable energy. The ship was considered a technological marvel at the time and was designed to be the most luxurious ocean liner in the world.

Of course we all know what happened ultimately to the Titanic. The legacy of the Titanic in Belfast is met with mixed emotions. The shipbuilders felt shame at the massive disaster their ship endured, though many place most of the blame on the ship’s captain for not doing more to avoid the icebergs. But the people of Belfast are a proud lot, and they also reflect with pride on their ancestor’s contributions to a piece of history recognized around the world. I believe the latter is what my Dad felt as he immersed himself in Titanic history and lore.

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Dad’s love of all things ‘Titanic’

Many reports of the recent cruise ship tragedy off the coast of Italy have drawn parallels to the Titanic. 2012 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. That made me think about my dad’s obsession with the Titanic. The ship was built in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and was a source of pride for the working-class people of that city. The Titanic set sail on its ill-fated maiden voyage on April 10, 1012; my dad was born April 10, 1932. Of course, the ultimate tragic fate of the legendary ship has been recounted in numerous books, movies and documentaries. While my dad of course mourned the massive loss of life, he could still appreciate the mystique of the story, with the lavish accommodations, the eclectic mix of passengers, the feeling of adventure those must have felt embarking on such a trip.

The Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City, April 10, 1912. File photo.

If there wasn’t a massive tome about the Titanic on my dad’s bedside table, then he was watching a PBS documentary on the subject. He loved to relate the details of the voyage that he learned about, as if he had been a passenger himself. I think it was like a fantasy world he delved into, long before his mind was ever crippled by dementia.

And how do I know that my dad didn’t retreat to a fantasy world just like that once the dementia did take hold. Maybe the real world increasingly became an irritating distraction to this alternative world he was slipping into. If so, I hope it was all champagne and caviar and song and dance, with no icebergs in sight.

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