Happy Father’s Day!
When Father’s Day is here, I, like everyone else, think of my dad. He was an interesting and unusual man, especially for his time. When I went to camp, he’d write me letters in longhand and always signed them, Your Daddy, Joe. Once, my college friends and I drove into the city at 3 A.M. for a “lark.” When we returned home, my parents were getting ready to go to work. My mom said, “What are you, crazy?” My dad said, “Good for you! You only live once!”
I love to look through old photo albums I inherited from my parents because they give me a glimpse into him before marriage, before fatherhood and before me.
He loved to travel and was probably one of very few Jewish boys from the Bronx who drove a motorcycle. He often told stories of his treks across the country.In 1935, a year before he and my mother were married, this photo was snapped. My mom used to say that every girl had her sights on him because he was so good-looking. I can see what she meant!
Here he is with one of his first cars. He always enjoyed going for rides in the country, exploring towns and taking the family to historic places, like the Roosevelt estate on Long Island, or a Vanderbilt Mansion. I learned so much on those outings, which were always followed by dinner in a really nice restaurant.
But of course, my memory of him forms different pictures in my mind, sometimes brooding, but always smiling with his Lillie beside him. He was a family man. Most weekends, we’d visit his mother, my Bubby, where he was babied as the youngest child in a family of six. Here, he was treated like a prince and Bubby always made his favorite foods when he visited. Upon departing, he’d surreptitiously slip a $10 or $20 bill in her apron.
He loved to fish. Once, the family was staying in a hotel in Florida and he went off for the day to fish in the ocean. When he returned, he implored us all to come down to the street where his car was parked. There, in the trunk of his Cadillac, was the 6 foot sailfish he caught!
Although he left school to help his family financially, he studied and got his G.E.D. later in life. He taught me compassion, appreciation for music and art, and a sense of adventure. He made me feel special; taking me with him to work, or on a long ride to visit a client, or back to his old neighborhood. He was very generous – once, when I joined a hiking club, he took me to a fancy clothing store in Jamaica, Queens, where he bought me a very expensive wool sweater. I still have it.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you!