Happy Father’s Day, Dad

I’m sitting here listening to a song written and sung by Mark Kozelak, a prominent performer who I’d never heard of until I found the essay he wrote about his eighty year old father for the NY Times.

It includes that song. Not very complex, it recounts his relationship with his father and some of his dad’s siblings. And it ends somberly, musing about what will be when his dad is gone.

Since tomorrow is Father’s Day, the essay and song took on some additional meaning and I silently reminisced about my own children and their relationships with me. And then I suddenly realized that I should really be thinking about my own father. So I did.

I thought about how my remembrances of him don’t pop into my head nearly as frequently as thoughts about my mother.

About how he left early for work, sometimes came home after dinner and usually worked at least one day on weekends. And never complained.

How when he was at home on Sundays, we’d lie down together on the couch in the dining room and listen to radio shows…The Shadow, Nick Carter and Gangbusters. Maybe I’ve screwed up the time slots, but so what.

The used toys he once brought home in an old cardboard box. An electric train (just the engine) and a two foot diameter track. It ran around the track in three seconds. A telegraph set made of sheet metal with only one unit. But it had the Morse Code on it and it clicked when you punched the key.

The times he took me to a synagogue to hear very special Cantors on Yom Kippur. It was the only times he went to Temple. Maybe he wasn’t religious but he never stopped being Jewish.

How he coughed seemingly without end. Until the doctor said he might try giving up the two packs of unfiltered Luckies that he smoked every day. He did when I was a little kid, cold turkey, and never touched them again.

When the landlord raised our apartment rent by fifteen dollars a month in 1954. He refused to pay it and bought a two-flat with my Uncle Max. Dad became a homeowner for the first time and loved cutting the small patch of lawn in the back.

The time I dented the fender of his new car the first time I soloed in it. And how I woke him from a nap to tell him. Stupid me.

When he refused to pay my college tuition until I promised to study something that I could make a living at. And I did.

He loved to play cards. Any kind. At home with friends. And won most of the time.

They loved company. Any excuse to feed people, share stories, and laugh.

How he lost most of his sight in his seventies to macular degeneration. He’s sit sidewise up against the TV and watch the baseball game. It was the only sporting event he could watch because it seemed the players never moved.

He’d drink one shot glass of Canadian Club before dinner. That was it. Never drank more. Maybe one drink at a party, maybe none.

I know he loved my mother. I never heard him raise his voice to her. But he was the boss. And she loved him very much.

How I learned more about him when he was dying of cancer than I did in all the years before.

I missed by flight home to Los Angeles the last time I saw him in the hospital. It was 1986 and he was eighty-four. I remember the year because it was the last time the Bears won the Super Bowl.

I can’t remember ever saying “I love you, Dad.” But I did.

7 Responses to “Happy Father’s Day, Dad”

  1. 1 David June 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I love you, Dad.


  2. 2 Mikey June 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Poignant memories Freddy. My Dad was also a hard worker…appliance and TV sales by day… musician by night. In those days our dads were less communicative about their feelings than we are today. But they loved us and were always proud to be our dads!

    Happy Father’s Day my friend!


  3. 3 Alice June 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    As always, Fred, you don’t waste words and go right to the heart of the matter. To this day, the respect and tenderness you held in your heart for your father come through loud and clear. He taught you essential lessons in life which you seemed to have applied. Happy Father’s Day, dear friend!


  4. 4 Dick June 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Good writing, Fred…..
    It made me think about my “Pop” for which I haven’t done for quite a while…
    It was mostly Brooklyn in the 40’s – 60’s, Mom’s Alzheimer’s in the late 60’s …getting myself a job at Syracuse and leaving him and mom in Brooklyn..their visiting us in Syracuse. Mom’s death and his coming back to life again…leaving Syracuse to get a job at Pfizer in Groton, CT… His visits to CT…his life after he moved in with Toni and me….both there and here in Ojai.
    He too, was a good Father to both my brother and myself.


  5. 5 Leslie Reicin stein June 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I remember one evening a week at your parents. We allegedly came to visit Grandma Reicin. My dad came in kissed Grandma and your mother and sat down in the breakfast room to play cards with his brothers. It was the highlight of the week for my Dad.


  6. 6 Sharon June 15, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I have tears in my eyes after reading your recollections of my Papa. I loved him so much and think of him often. He was such a positive force in my life.
    He never wanted anything for himself but made sure we always had whatever we wanted. From as early as I can remember, we went there every Wednesday night for dinner, and every other Sunday. Alternate Sundays we went to visit him at the deli while he worked. He always made me feel important and loved. He gave me my first car. and when he couldn’t drive anymore I went there every Saturday morning to take him and Bubby wherever they needed to go. I miss watching the Cubs and the Sox with him. His unconditional love for me is something I miss and will never forget.
    Happy Father’s Day to you and all the Fathers and Grandfathers out there!


  7. 7 Nancy June 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I love you Dad


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