February 17, 2011

Thinking of My Dad

Today would have been my Dad's 94th birthday. I miss him now more than I ever thought I would.

As a child of the sixties I was the first born of a father who was already 44 years old at my birth I led a childhood somewhat different than that of my friends/peers. Growing up in what I now realize was a rather well off suburb in north Jersey, mine was one of the few Dads who was a World War 2 veteran and while he worked his ass off as a baker at the county hospital for over 30 years, I only thought of him as the Dad who couldn't make it to many of my games or school functions since he got up at 4 Am everyday to walk, yes walk, the over 2 miles to his job and then after being on his feet all day baking for over 5,000 patients walked towards home, usually stopping off at the local gin mill for a few Seagram 7 's with a beer chaser and a few shuffleboard matches with the boys.

While he was rarely able to attend my baseball, soccer or basketball games, my Dad never let me forget that if I enjoyed the game, to play it with all my being. I'll never forget the day I came home after a little league game at age 8 or 9, in which I'd been the catcher whose glove had been whacked by a bat while a hitter was swinging only to see the umpire award the hitter first base. My coach and most of the other parents were stunned that a batter would get awarded the base when it looked as if I'd had my hand broken. After my Mom walked me home whilst worrying that I'd been seriously injured, my Dad upon hearing the story, set his beer down, walked into the bedroom, rummaged around in the bottom of his closet and returned with a small tattered book that he flipped open to the page in the "Rules of Baseball" that described the offense I'd committed and handed me the book saying keep it and read it because "if you want to play the game you have to know the rules". I learned that day and have never forgotten the "Catcher's interference" rule and years later when I was in high school I became a Little League umpire myself, who was promoted quickly up the levels due to my "Knowledge of the Rules".

My Dad took me to my first big league game at the Polo Grounds in 1964, which remarkably began what is now my lifelong infatuation with the New York Mets.

Sure we had the occasional game of catch (not often) and watched and listened to many games together over the years, but he rarely was able to attend my games as grew through high school.

Three days in the lives of my Dad and I stick out more than any other.

The first was when I told my parents that my high school soccer coach had told me at lunch one day late in the season of my senior year that he didn't know how, but the coaches at the county and state awards meeting had selected the kid with the "dutch boy" haircut as an All Conference, All County and All State player. My Mom's response was one that I'd expected, hopefully, I could get some money for college from this. My Dad just nodded and got up and went into his bedroom. As I was going to bed I yelled Good Night to him when he called me in and told me to sit in the bed then turned to me with a tear in his eye (I thought he was pretty drunk) and said he was so proud of me and couldn't wait to tell his friends at the bar.

The second was when after hearing that he had a granddaughter, he told me to meet him at the bar where he said "that's a good start, but we need a boy “in front of his pals but pulled me aside toward the backdoor saying he was so glad it was a little girl.

The last was a few months after he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer and had been deteriorating physically when I went to his bed side to ask him if he had any plans or wishes on his final arrangements. I was bawling like a little baby when he asked with a straight face if I wanted the money. He and I knew there was no life insurance so we both broke up laughing hysterically until my Mom had to yell at us to calm down. After we composed ourselves as best we could he simply told me to do what I thought was right and not to spend much money and to remember that after he was gone that I would have to do my best to look after my mom and little sister.

Little did he know how much I'd rely on my sister to care for my Mom. I'm sure our Mom (who passed in July of 1995) has since told him what went on after his death in May of 1987 (at least he and I were able to enjoy the last Mets World Series title together, sort of) and I'm certain that in his own way he'd have told her how proud he was and is of her, I know it...

Anyway, I'm sure my Dad and Mom are thrilled that not only did I survive my massive stroke (coming up on 4 years ago) but that I'm remarried to the love of my life. My sister, Linda is doing well and their two granddaughters are doing great.

Happy Birthday Dad, I really do miss You. Give Mom a kiss for all of us and say Hi to Jo's Dad and Kevin.

I'm sure he doesn't mind so ...


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