I just don't think that you, the astute readers out there, would find the minutiae of my personal life altogether that interesting. Besides, that's what my facebook page is for.
In any event, this is Father's Day, 2009 and I wanted to do something a little different and tell you a little something about my dad.
Here he is with me a few years ago. He's the shorter, beardless one. This was probably a decade or so ago - I surmise this by noting the complete absence of gray in my beard, the round glasses on my face and the fact that there's still some hair on the top of my head.
My dad passed away in November, 2007 after a very harsh, though mercifully short, battle with cancer. He would have been 81 this past March.
His parents emigrated from southern Italy early in the 20th century. Smart as a whip, he was the first in his family to graduate high school and first in his family to graduate from college (NYU '56 on the GI Bill). He was a mechanical engineer who designed sprinkler systems for a living. He married my mom in 1960 and had two kids by the fall of '63 (I was the second). They made it possible for us a comfortable, safe, and secure life in a house filled with love, books, and good food.
And he knew lots of stuff - from the eulogy I wrote:
We were all once watching a movie – I can't remember which one. It was an action movie of some sort and we'd stumbled into a scene in a casino – and I recall asking an innocent question about all the other betting possibilities at the craps table. The question was something like, "Hey, what are all those other squares on the table?" and Dad ended up giving me a 10 minute seminar on the mathematics of gambling with dice and how each of the odds are reflected in each of the betting options. I think I was in my 20s at that point and I remember asking myself, "When was dad ever in a casino?" It was not for as long as I knew him. If he had been shooting craps at a casino someplace, it must've been decades before – and if that's the case, how the heck did he remember that all math for such a long period of time?That was my dad. Always sharp. Always reading, always learning. He absolutely inhaled historical novels.
He was also a bodybuilder in his youth. Growing up in a crowded house in a crowded section of Trenton, he found the gym in his late teens. And he used to tell us that he started from the bar. That is to say, from the beginning - with no added weights. I think it was a "life lesson" he sought to impart to my brother Albie and me - the lesson being that it might take time, but by patient and persistent effort you can achieve some great things. Look at dad. He started from the bar and in a few years he could climb a rope using only his hands with his legs parallel to the floor. He could do a set of pushups with a 185 pound guy sitting on his shoulders. He could do a one-handed handstand (with is feet propped up against a wall) and press his own weight a couple of times.
Everything that he was, he made out of himself.
He was the most honest man I've ever met. I never knew him to cut corners in anyway. Never saw him drunk and I never saw him get violent or intimidating. He was a great guy. Though he came up with the worst puns ever in the history of the English language. Possibly in human history. I'll spare you those. You'll thank me later.
Growing up, as he did, in Trenton, he developed a completely understandable undying devotion to Tasty Kakes. The only trouble was that in southern New England, Tastykakes weren't exactly sold on every corner, in every grocery store. So when he was able to snag some, he did. A few Christmases ago I made his day (as my mom would tell me later) with a special gift. Take a look:
See all those boxes? TASTYKAKES. My dad loved him some tastykakes.
One last picture. Here he is in the Army This was the early 50s and he was in his early 20s. Handsome sombich, huh? This was about 10 years before I was born.
For better or worse, we all grow into (or away from) our own ever-changing and flawed-as-they-are portraits we make of our parents. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had that man as my dad.
God, I miss him. Gotta call mom to see how she's doing.