Dad stretched to call himself 5 ft. 8 in. A Golden Gloves Bantam Weight boxing champion, Dad was wiry, athletic and smart---long torso, short legs and low-slung ass---I inherited all three. His white blond hair and crystal clear blue eyes completed the image of bon vivant. He dropped out of high school and joined the Navy but was discharged after a diagnosis of rheumatic fever. With carpentry skills learned from his father, he expanded his knowledge to brick masonry and other construction expertise---enough to build whatever needed building. Gorgeous limestone homes and tall office buildings were built with my Dad’s hands and overseen by his intellect and expertise. But to say he blew a successful career and a brilliant mind on wine, women and song would be a generous interpretation of Dad’s career path—more like booze, broads and bawdy ballads.
On of my earliest memories of Dad was also one of the only houses where I actually remember him living with us. He purchased our first black and white TV for that house and hooked it up in the small living room. It almost seemed like we were a ‘normal’ family---whatever that means---at least as seen on TV. In that same house, I cowered in the corner as Mom and Dad had a violent fight over whether to buy me new shoes. I had been chosen as crown bearer in the Fall Festival Parade. I needed a princess dress and a new pair of shoes. Dad, coming home from work drunk, didn’t grasp the importance of this occasion, so Mom threw a pan of dishwater on him and the fight was on. I caught the combs from Mom’s thick chestnut hair when they flew my direction as he whipped her around the room. Memory fails about the outcome of the fight except I rode on the float in a new dress and shoes. The episode was one of dozens of times Dad moved out then moved back in---always a revolving door.
I longed for Dad in ways I couldn’t name. Fragments of memory about him poke through my psyche like ragged edge shards poking through soil at an archeological dig.