My dad Bob Serko turns 90 today, January 25th. 90 years old, now that is a milestone! Sure he’s slowed down a bit but, not much. He’s been retired longer than he worked, a statistic he proudly points out regularly. He’s a guy who knows how to work a room turning up the charm or making a good-hearted wisecrack to break the ice. He’s gregarious sometimes to a fault. Several mornings a week you’ll find him engaging the Guatemalan owners of his favorite coffee hangout “The Pantheon” in a muddled version of Spanish that brings smiles to everyone behind the counter but left me on my first visit cringing a little. He can be bossy but never in a hurtful or self-centered way.
The youngest of two children. His brother Mike lived to age 92, his mother 98. He was an academic and athletic standout in high school earning a scholarship to Rutgers University and joining ROTC. He married Nancy Lou Coles his senior year at Rutgers. After college he completed his army obligation, thankfully missing Korea, serving as an officer. The army could have easily been his career, no doubt taking him far… General Serko, that has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? He was accepted into law school but then I came along and messed up those plans.
He worked for IBM his entire working life providing a middle-class lifestyle for our family. We were never without. Family always came first, church second. He and my mother created a loving household where we all felt safe, cared for, and supported regardless of our life choices. This was never more evident than when my brother David was stricken with AIDS. Although David’s homosexuality ran against everything my parents’ believed they never abandon him as happened to so many during that time. David’s death was a devastating blow, one they somehow managed to survive with grace and dignity. I’m not sure I could do the same.
I’ve lived 3000 miles away from them for more than 40 years. Not being part of their lives is one of my regrets yet, we remain close, speaking by phone every Sunday without fail, seeing each other in person at least once or twice a year. We laugh a lot and get along well except when it comes to one thing: politics. My dad is a die-hard Republican who believes the perils of socialism are right around the corner when Democrats are in charge. Nevermind the fact that he is on Medicare, Social Security and enjoys a nice pension from IBM… all by-the-way at the instigation of socialist loving Democrats. We agree to disagree avoiding talk of politics at all costs. That’s fine with me, he’s my dad, and not even politics (or the end of democracy) can change my love for him.
Yet, recently I began to wonder, how did my dad come to be so entrenched in his political beliefs? Surely there must be a skeleton or two in the closet that points to a time when he may have thought differently. So recently I began to look through some old family photos looking for clues and low-and-behold… look what I found!
Happy 90th birthday dad! You are the greatest!