Today’s Word(s): ‘I Made it” as in… what you say on the morning of your 90th birthday.
Gene Gauche would have been 95 years old today. Five years ago on the morning of his 90th, I called him to wish him a happy birthday. He answered the phone after the third ring and the first words out of his mouth were simply, “I made it!” I knew what he meant by that. But I always sort of wondered what he really meant by that. Know what I mean?
I wondered if he meant that 90 had been the goal to reach after such a remarkable life and that everything after that is just grace. I wondered if “I made it” meant that in life he experienced far more than he ever dreamed. I wondered if “I made it” meant that he’d survived the years of the Great Depression in a small house with his four siblings and his mom and dad and went on the thrive. I wondered if “I made it” meant being active in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict and flying 14 different aircraft including the Hercules C-130 as an instructor. I wondered if “I made it” meant being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action, and the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters. I wondered if “I made it” meant moving over 40 times in 62 years of marriage to his childhood sweetheart. I wondered if “I made it” meant reveling in every role in life as a husband, father, pilot, hunter, musician, real estate broker, commercial fisherman, golfer (with a hole-in-one to his credit), painter, grandfather, and most recently a great-grandfather. I wondered if “I made it” meant finally realizing that he’d fulfilled his personal mission statement: “There’s a big world out there—don’t miss it.”
So I paused for a moment after he said “I made it!” and then I said, “You certainly did, Dad, you certainly did. Happy birthday.”