Tag Archives: father

In praise of my father

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pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

The role of fathers in 2016 has dramatically changed, as everywhere the structure of what is “family” is undergoing great changes, and spouses are having to adjust to alternate expectations.

I think I was lucky, in many ways, to have grown up in what would today be considered a traditional family, where the mother stayed home while the father went out to work, supported the family – and we all lived on what he could bring in. It was not that simple, however, as war and economic upheavals made it necessary to exercise other skills to survive, through turmoil brought into the daily lives of families.

I have already written about the valiant battles my mother fought to keep our family alive. Now it’s time to give proper praise to my father – and the role he played in our family.

My father was perhaps the last of those we can really call a “Renaissance Man.” To me, that means someone very broadly educated, having a basic knowledge and understanding of all fields of human endeavor, being able to understand how they all fit together, and an appreciation of all the arts – in a way, being an academic “Jack of all Trades.” My father was not a practical man; he did not fix things around the house, nor did he do the shopping, cleaning or concern himself with the details of daily living.

But we children (my brother and I) thought of him as a walking encyclopedia. There was no topic on which he could not speak at length, and with detailed knowledge. We used to kid about what would happen if we asked him a question: there was never just a simple “yes” or “no”! All answers had to be properly explained, background given, and rationally justified. My father believed that there always was a rational answer, backed up by history and facts, and he was not a great defender of vagrant opinions.

I recall when he undertook to teach us “Julius Caesar.” It took daily evening sessions at home, as we went through not only every word of the play, but an analysis of all the characters, their psychology and motivation, the history of the Roman empire, and as much background as he could squeeze into our nightly sessions. Everything had to be tied in with background – so we could judge not only what the characters did, but also why. My brother and I used to warn each other and our friends: “Don’t ask dad a question, unless you want a whole course about it!”

He knew, could recognize and name, just about all the classical music by the major composers, and could discourse on how, when, and why they had written as they did.

But above all, he was the only completely honest man I have ever known. My father never tried to cheat the IRS, and always checked every charge at restaurants, often catching errors, both in favor of the restaurant, or in his.
And, above all, he was unerringly certain about what was right and wrong … and lived by that belief.

On seeing my father

By Rosalie Tirella

editor’s note: This column was published more than seven years ago; we ran it (in June ICTimes) in honor of Father’s Day.

Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junk yard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Some of his entrances were comical – like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

But most of his entrances were cruel, small, mean. He made my sisters, my mother and me cry and succeeded at that so well that we eventually learned to … simply dismiss him — cut him out of our world the way you cut the bruise out of an apple. We went on with our lives, worked around our peripatetic “Daddy.” My mother held down a 60-hr-week job to pay the bills, we kids went to school, held after-school jobs, applied to colleges. My father popped in – for weeks or months.

Very confusing.

Then, after all these years, my father died in the nursing home two months ago. And Bingo! He’s now larger than life for me – omnipresent, so to speak.

As I drive around Worcester selling ads for my newspaper, InCity Times, with the radio blaring and paperwork to the side of me, I see him. I’m eight years old; my sisters are six. It’s Easter afternoon and my father strides into our Green Island flat, chomping on a big cigar. My mom has my two sisters and me sitting in our three little kiddie rocking chairs waiting for her to get dressed. We’re going to Easter Mass! We wear new pastel dresses with butterflies embroidered on them. My mother “set” our hair the night before, and now our straight brown hair bounces happily around our faces in “baloney curls.” In my father strides, enraged. We had not seen him for almost … forever. We did not know from which land he strode – not the sweet and holy world that my mother and grandmother had created in our apartment, a world filled with prayers to the saints, rosary beads, homework papers, rules and pet hamsters! Was my father going to hurt anybody this time, I asked myself?

No! He was going to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny! God love my wonderful, hopeful, dreamy mother, she had my father sit in the grownup rocking chair in the kitchen. She would put the big, vinyl Easter Bunny she had bought at the five and ten and blown up (to our merriment) near the rocking chair where he sat. Then she told us little kids to “sit on Daddy’s lap.” We would all say “cheese” on the count of three! It would be a great Easter picture!

I was only eight but thought my mother mad. No, I would not get on Daddy’s lap! No, I would not be in the Easter Bunny picture. My sisters – twins and safe in their look-a-likeness – happily clambered atop my father. Then my mother lifted her little Brownie camera, peered through the little viewer and said, “One two! Say Cheese!” and snapped the picture.

Today I look at the square little photo from the ’60s and see two little gangly girls in pretty dresses in baloney curls looking exactly alike and smiling widely. Each one straddles one of my father’s legs. The bottoms of their dresses fan out over my father’s lap. And there’s my 30-something father; he’s wearing a striped muscle shirt. His hands are on my sisters’ knobby knees and he stares into the camera, looking … trapped. His rugged handsomeness blows me away! When I was a little girl he seemed the ugliest person in the world!

When I’m on the road, I look out of my car window and think I catch my father’s eyes. But it’s just some old man.

“He’s dead!” I tell myself angrily and shake my head as if to shake out the images of him. Then four or so hours later I see my father walking down Shrewsbury Street (his favorite street) and I have to remind myself all over again.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he was not living with my mother and us. Mom had stopped giving him second and third chances a decade ago. My sisters and I had moved out of the apartment in pursuit of higher education/careers. So it was a shock to see him walking past the fish and chips joint on Grafton Street, red-faced, his nylon jacket unzipped, billowing out behind him. He wore no shirt that raw, autumn day and he looked dazed. Then there was his neck: as big as a basketball. The lymphoma had set in.

And yet my father went walking around Worcester – his hometown that he seldom traveled outside of –as if nothing unusual had happened. It was one of my aunt’s – his sister – who had found him in his mother’s old house, lying in the darkness, and said: “Bill, you’ve got to go the hospital.” And then he did – quietly and with some grace – because he knew he was dying.

Sometimes I look out my car window and see my father after the cancer ravaged him. I see a helpless old man – my father after the chemo-therapy, the radiation, the blood transfusions. The chemo treatment took all his curly thick hair away and left him with silver, wispy locks my aunt would cut in a bowl shape. Gone was all his wild, curly red hair that rode high above his already high forehead in some grand pompadour, the wild “do” that lead my feisty old Grandma (she was my mother’s mom and lived with us and loathed my father) to nickname him: “The Red Devil.”

Run, devil, run! There you are standing outside the Commerce Building on Main Street, waiting for the bus. There you are walking out of the Millbury Street fruit store, eating a juicy plum and throwing the pit into the gutter. There you are eating the same juicy plum over our Lafayette Street kitchen sink, my sweet mother looking absolutely smitten by you. You have no time for dishes, meals served on plates. Family sit-down meals are not part of your universe. “Gotta get outta here!” you used to say. “Here” being: our Green Island flat, poverty, a wife, three kids, responsibility.

You want to leave – I can tell. But I just can’t let you go, Daddy.

Tough times

By Chris Horton

Today it’s very hard to be a father, and that can be hard for everyone in the family.

For men, who see our ability to bring home a paycheck as a big part of what makes us a man, of what makes us worthy to belong to a family, not being able to provide for them can be devastating. But we are worth much more than that to our children. This is a good day for us and for our families to reflect on what we’re worth, what we bring, why we’re needed.

Times are hard, and it’s natural to feel that it’s our fault, our personal failure. The “great ones”, the ones who’ve made it and the ones who were “born on third base and think they hit a triple”, are trying to blame this disaster on us and get us blaming ourselves and on each other for it, but it’s really not our fault. When you’re struggling to survive and it’s not working, you have to keep on trying – and to do that well you have to take responsibility for the results you get. But when it’s not working no matter how hard you try because of things beyond your control, there’s nothing to be gained and everything to lose from beating yourself up, drugging yourself and taking it out on your family.

Unemployment levels are higher than at any time since the Great Depression. The De Facto Unemployment Rate (DUFR, calculated by the Center for Working Class Studies, counting everyone who would be working full time if they could but can’t) is hovering around 30%. And that’s not Dad’s fault. Continue reading Tough times

A day out with Dad

By Matt Wexler

“Let me push it!”

Dad chuckled to himself, and let go of my fidgeting 4-year-old hand. It shot out instantly, reaching in vain for the button that would take the elevator to the 31st floor. Even on my tip-toes, my outstretched finger could reach only up to floor three.

“Hey sport, let me give you a boost.”

He lifted me high into the air, and the button lit up as I pressed it. I squealed with glee, almost dropping the hot dog my held in my other hand. As Dad set me down, I felt the elevator moving upwards, each floor number lighting up as we passed it.

“I can’t wait!” I exclaimed, as I took a bite out of the hot dog. Some of the ketchup spurted out of my mouth, staining my shirt. Dad smiled at me, and leaned down to wipe up the mess. Continue reading A day out with Dad