Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who's Your Daddy?


I've written a lot so far about my mother, and a little bit about them as a couple, but not too much about my dad. That's partly because while I have a lot of pretty horrific memories of him from my childhood, I know now that much of his bad behavior was driven by my mother and maybe even by clinical depression, and I have forgiven him.

At heart, he was a very warm guy. He really liked us as babies (good thing, because my mother handled us like we were radioactive), until we got old enough to block the TV. He had a really strong Brooklyn accent, which made me laugh even as a child. He said "Oil" when he meant "Earl", and "earl" when he meant "oil". I remember pointing it out to him once, but I think he clocked me one. He was a gadget freak. We didn't have a lot of money...he was a mailman afterall. But we always had new cars (see below), air conditioning before anyone else, more than one TV before that was the norm, and electric EVERYTHING. Electric can opener, card shuffler, back name it, we had it. He even bought an electric cigarette-roller. That didn't work so great. (He didn't score the first COLOR TV on the block, though. My grandparents did! )

I think because I was the third girl and he was probably hoping for a son, he taught me everything I know about baseball, boxing, engines, and of course it was Sal who taught me how to handicap racehorses (a talent I displayed to a nun for Show & Tell in 6th grade). He even brought me to the track once and let me pick his horses, but I did so well that he thought it better not to bring me back.

One of the best things he left me with, although unknowingly, was a collection of bawdy 78rpm records by a singer named Ruth Wallis, the queen of the double-entendre. Her songs went something like this:

I took in a boarder and I treated him right
But he got into my fine night
Now my house is out of order
How can I take care of a husband and a boarder?
What am I gonna do?
Mr. Boarder I put it up to you...

You gotta stay out of my pantry, Mister
That stuff don't come with the rent
You gotta stay out of my pantry, Mister
You're makin' too big a dent...

Other songs were called "Johnny's Little Yo-Yo" and "Loretta's a Sweater Girl" (" does she steal away each fella's heart? She's got two outstanding reasons...she's cute and she's smart!").

I played them, memorized them, and entertained the "troops" by belting them out on High School bus trips.

So, while there are a lot of mistakes he made that will stick with me forever (I cannot listen to the 10,000 Maniacs song, "What's the Matter Here?" without blubbering), I can also say that he gave me valuable gifts...humor, a penchant for trivia, a love for sports and movies and Soupy Sales...and he made his peace with me by loving my children.

A few years before he died, I found the perfect Father's Day card for him. On the outside it said: "Dad, you know how I drove you crazy for so long?" and on the inside..."I'm almost done."