Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fathers Day

As promised I will now write the eulogy for my father. (Sorry Pat) I will temper it some because of Ellwort, who is a great dad to his kids and I can see a big difference that makes for one's self esteem. Also to be a single mom in America was really bad when mom took on all seven of us kids when my dad turned his back on us. He never helped her, monetarily or in any way. A few short times when she was kicked out of her house he grudgingly took some of us in. My sister Pat remembers that time as years, I remember it as months. I lived with my dad alone for a few months in the summer of '69, as I had run away from the family who had taken me in and they'd had it with me.
He got me jobs- horrible jobs- I worked so hard that I would cry from tiredness and abuse from the "Mom and Pop" duo that owned a beachfront breakfast place in the hotel where we lived. He told me I'd better save some money for school clothes because he didn't have the money. OK. He then took my pay and then "got" me a second job so that I could afford my school clothes. That one in addition to the daily grind, which was washing dishes in the main restaurant of the same hotel 7pm to 11:30 pm. I quit the first day and just cried and tried to think of a way to get out of living with him.
The West Palm Beach pop festival was coming up and it was three days! I told my dad that I was going. He said what about your job(s)? At my age14, I had run away twice. Once with a schyzophrenic twenty year old, hitch hiking across the entire US, stayed in San Francisco in the summer of love, (1968) and hitched back across the southern part of the US. Another time my girlfriend and I ran away to the Florida Keys to join a commune. So there I was- my dad trying to tell me what to do. He was a scary, violent, person, so I listened, halfheartedly. He said I could go to the festival if I did my job in the day and came back at midnight? Wha?? I had a nerdy boyfriend at the time who, when I told him- said OK, we can do that! Wha?? Go to a three day concert and come home every night? Unheard of! Well we did that the first two days but stayed all night on the last night because the Rolling Stones did not come on until 4:30 am. So we raced back after that only for me to be locked out. We slept on the beach. Anyway, happy father's day Dad- hope you come back as a better person in your next life! More to come... There were a couple of good bones in his body, for example he worked in the civil rights movement, but right now I need to vent for Mom's sake.


ellwort said...


LumpinProllie said...

From PWH NY:

July 4, 2008

After reading your eulogy to Dad, I thought: I'm not going to respond on a public blog - too painful, personal.

However, as an older daughter, I too have memories that deserve to be shared. Our father was born in New York City, to a corporate lawyer who went to Yale and a working mother. Along the way hard times set in, his parents drank heavily and neglected their parental responsibilities. Joe, our father, ended up living with 'friends' of the family during early teenage years. He enlisted in the army, served in WWII and came back to NY to begin his adult life. Excessive drinking became the norm.

Joe met our mother at a USO gathering, where she performed as a chorus dancer. She was a quiet girl, born in Chicago during depressed times, Her mother worked nights at the Chicago telephone co., a switchboard operator and on occasion (not being able to afford childcare) would leave her 2 children alone. One night, their basement apt. flooded and the authorities were called in to investigate. My mother was taken away, 'temporarily' placed in the home of a co-worker's family. Although never formally adopted, she remained with this family until she met my father.

As it was back then, my parents met, went out for a short time and decided to get married. My father was 25 and my mother was barely 18. Within a fairly short period, there were 3 kids and, a first son and twin daughters. The twins (I’m the older one) were born premature, with serious physical handicaps. My father continued his drinking until a devoted AA member of the family took him under his care and introduced him to the program. Desperately in need of a father figure, he became involved and committed to AA and didn't drink for almost 20 years.

The father I knew, while growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a person I loved and deeply admired. As a former New Yorker, Roosevelt democrat, and fierce liberal he spoke out (loudly) against social injustice and fought for civil rights - unafraid of the bigotry and blatant racism in the south in the 1950's.

My father began his career as a salesman (NC was a major textile manufacturing state). He started out selling bridal wear, women's clothing - selling samples to industry buyers from a rack in the back of his car -traveling across country. Tired of the constant strain of travel and being away from his family - he helped to develop the idea of a merchandise mart: a selling space where clothing manufacturers could showcase their lines and buyers could set up appointments to buy for their store. This innovative idea was eventually developed into the Charlotte Merchandise Mart. Sadly, he was never able to realize his long time dream of becoming the regional manager. He was blacklisted for openly campaigning during JFK's run for president and advocating for civil rights.

His life centered around media communications, radio, journalism.
A disc jockey, he had his own radio program and gained local fame as a play-by-play hockey game announcer. He ran local nightclubs, coffee clubs, disco's and a teenage night club. He performed in local summer theater, acting and dancing. My father routinely volunteered at church and school activities, coaching sports and theater for disadvantaged kids.

During the 1950's - 1965, our family lived a very middle class life.
It's true that fathers of his generation were not that involved in family life - they lived for their work, mothers stayed at home. Then the '60's revolution hit and all hell broke loose. Parents began to separate, divorce and 'do their own thing.' Families disintegrated.

There are always 2 sides to every story. I don't want to go into the sordid details. Suffice it to say that both our parents started drinking heavily during the late '60's and our family suffered greatly as a result.
Perhaps it goes back a generation to what they experienced in their childhood...the lack of a secure home life. Who knows? The facts speak for themselves.

My sister is usually the first to remind me that 'alcoholism is a disease' and you can't blame the person for their actions when alcoholism is the determining factor. If anything, this influenced my father's behavior. He grew up with an alcoholic father, who had a typical 'Victorian' upbringing (ruled with a heavy fist). Kids were to be 'seen and not heard,’ parental anger and rage dominated the household.

During the final decade or so of my father's life, I was his caretaker.
Through the years I got to know him and love him. He was someone who had his dark moments but also someone who loved his wife and (estranged) family. It was his wish to reconcile with them in his final years. He was spiritual, compassionate, generous, and a true social and political activist until the end of his life.

I am constantly reminded of him on a daily basis: so much of what I'm passionate about can be attributed to him. I've lived in NYC for almost 40 years, around every corner is a reminder of my father. The neighborhood where he was born (5th Ave. & 95th St.), the Upper West Side, Symphony Space, Rock Center, etc. He was a New Yorker through and your face, sometimes unrepentant. He cared passionately about everything he did - and everytime I work or volunteer for a social or political cause - I thank my father.

He died on June 27, 2003. On this anniversary of his death, I made it a point to attend mass at St. Malachy's and light a candle to commemorate and honor him. May he rest in peace.