His old man really never had it good, as if karma dealt him a dead hand. Losing his teeth at a young age ( periodontal disease) and struggling along with his parents during the height of the depression would be enough of a rope to hang on him. Then, being an honor student at Brooklyn College, only to drop out after one year to work full time, would stifle many from a promising career path. The family just had to stay afloat, replete with dinners of banana and bitter broccoli sandwiches. HIs dad had just lost his good paying job as a machinist due to being arrested during one of New York’s multitude of labor strikes. The son and wife had to literally go around begging for bail money. Once free of conviction, the father was told, in NO uncertain terms, that ” You will NEVER work in this industry again!” Couldn’t even get onto Relief ( latter day term for welfare/unemployment) as the waiting periods were infinite, the father saw his manhood slowly fade away. Finally, a bullet to the brain while lying in the bathtub, so as to be as neat as possible for what his wife would have to clean away. The Tarot cards of life had really been rigged!
He was told that his dad secured a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the duration of the war ( first he was drafted and sent to Tank School in Texas, until his status as ‘Sole Supporting Son’ kicked in). He made friends with a co-worker, and after the war they opened a used car lot together. Things were finally shaping up, until Amos, his partner, signed his dad’s name as co-signer on a personal loan.
The loan never got repaid, Amos denied the truth, and his dad had to file bankruptcy. For many years he had no credit, and no chance to purchase a home for his new family. HIs father in law got him into the Longshoremen’s union and onto the docks. Any dreams of being his own man and successful used car businessman were over. This is where he stayed until retirement This well read and highly intelligent man could have easily become a lawyer had the dice rolled differently.
He remembers sitting at the dinner table each evening and listening to his dad write down the horseracing results from the radio broadcast. At the age of five he didn’t quite understand that dad was working for a bookmaker to earn extra money. He would accompany his father on Saturdays to first the local taverns ( for collections ) and then straight out to the racetrack. He loved the excitement of that atmosphere. He remembers that distinct smell of horse manure and disinfectant merging as one. He loved being with his dad as they cheered on the ponies down the stretch. He could enjoy all the many characters his dad would run into at the track. Between this and having his dad take him to all his Little League games, the bond between them was tight.
Memories sometimes cling onto us like honey on a spoon. As a grown man the son did have issues with his father… but never enough to sever that eternal tie. And, years later, as the old man, now nearly 90, seeing his wife of 60+ years pass away, did something his son had never seen him do. He received the sad news sitting in a wheel chair at the nursing home and cried like a baby! The tears flowed from his tired eyes like out of a faucet, as he sobbed continually. The son just knew his pop wouldn’t make it much longer… and within a year he passed in his sleep, like we all should.
Each Fathers Day the son pauses for a bit to bring up any pleasant memory of his old man. And there were and will always be so many.
June , 2022