Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Father at 83

We never called my father “Dad”. His real name was Bill. But we called him “Bail”, which I suppose came about when either my brother or I asked him what his name was and we couldn't pronounce it right. Either way, I don’t ever remember calling him “Dad” until age 18, when I had already left home. So, in some ways you might say that I grew up without a father. But that would be quite a stretch as he was always around. We just didn’t call him “Dad”, as all the other kids I knew addressed their fathers.

Then there was the time in between; when we were aware that “Bail” was an odd thing to call your father, but weren’t comfortable enough to use the term “Dad.” So, at that point we didn’t call him anything. Oddly, on all of the cards and notes which were preserved by my mother; whom we called “Mom”; we addressed him as “Dad”. We just never spoke it.

It may have been about the time when my brother started to get serious with his then girlfriend Helene that this became an issue in our home. I’m not sure. But it was a long time until I felt comfortable addressing him in that fashion.

Today would have been his 83rd birthday. I can’t say I miss him much; we didn't speak for the last 10 years of his life; and spent much of the rest of it at odds with one another. I cannot even imagine having a relationship with him at all.

There is an old photo of my brother and I in our bedroom in Brooklyn when I was about 10 years old. On the wall over the toy box hangs my first guitar. I got it for Christmas and was eager to make some music. But I was not allowed to play it unless I took lessons. I was never going to be good at math because my mother wasn't. I would never be strong, I would never be able to make a living because my health was bad. The list went on and on.

Today he would have been 83. Hey Dad; I excel at mathematics; even taught myself to navigate by the stars.  I learned it from a book. I've traveled the world 3 times by ship, plane, foot and train. I got really strong while serving in the U.S. Navy and later as a Merchant Mariner. I’ve even built shopping centers and housing developments using those math skills I’d never be good at. I became a surveyor and an Estimator, excelling at both. Later I became a Contract Administrator. Attorneys have called me seeking advice. I own 4 guitars and play them all well enough to satisfy my musical urges and even entertain others; as long as I don't sing.

And remember that $1,000 life insurance policy you bought from Uncle Roy when I was 6 years old? You cancelled my brothers but kept mine active until the day you died. I was 47 years old at that time. You never collected the $350 that had accrued in value over the 40 year period in which you paid over $1,000 into it. I guess you were wrong about me dying before you did. And I was wrong about you being so smart in financial matters.

In short; you were wrong about so many things; but mainly you were wrong about me. Happy Birthday, "Dad".

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