I didn’t know my dad very well. That’s not to say he wasn’t around, but he never really shared anything with us. Well, he did share a few stories when we were kids. For example, I know at the age of 10 he fell through the ice of Lake Michigan. (he was quite OK, just cold)
Or that he pushed his brother Charlie (my uncle) out into the street where in turn, Charlie got hit by an oncoming car. (he was OK too)
He also told us about a place he used to hang out. It was a pizzeria called “Roma’s” that was across the street from St. Vincent’s of De Paul in Chicago, where he went to high school . I guess you could say it was the “Peach Pit” of the 50’s. He took my brother and I there when we were kids. That’s where I had my first cherry 7-up. A real one. …from the soda fountain.
Later on, when I got older, his stories stopped coming and the excursions turned into boring fishing trips. That’s where I opted out, and my brother soon became his co-pilot.
I started becoming more and more interested in socializing with my friends, school functions, and sports. Oh, and thank God for sports. That became the only time my dad had shown interest in me. Since I didn’t like fishing, there was really nothing else to talk about. Maybe it was the awkwardness of a a girl going thru puberty that he kept his distance. Maybe he was just no longer the sharing type. Maybe he didn’t have any anecdotes that went with getting your period?
After my dad had past, my half sister gave me a picture of him, one I had never seen of him before. She said it was one of the only few she had of our dad, and was one of her favorites. He’s in what looks to be a red Cadillac convertible (or a similar boat of a car) where he’s wearing a white t-shirt, hair combed back in the style of back in the day, and posing like he was cool as shit. Knowing those few stories about his childhood, and seeing this picture makes me think of a Martin Scorsese movie like a Bronx Tale. Tough, but sweet.
My dad was sick on and off for about 10 years. He had a stroke in 1997 and past away in the fall of 1998. I had moved back from California to Chicago to be with him and help out my mom. I didn’t realize the extent of how bad he was til my mother started calling me everyday crying, begging me to come back. So I did.
And I am glad I did. One of the last things I can remember of my dad is having lunch at White Castle. His stroke left him unable to talk and use the right side of his body, but he was still able to scarf down 6 burgers without batting an eye. He would ask for no cheese, but never said anything about the pickles. Those he would peel off and give them to me…just like when i was a kid.
Maybe I knew my dad more than I thought. I’m glad now I have stories like these to tell my son. He never got to meet my dad. All I have is memories and great pictures, like the one of my Dad in the Cadillac.