Today, my father would have been 115, just a few years older than Bilbo Baggins, but no less a joyful and inspirational man.
My father lived and worked for his family.
I always considered him a Man Of The Twentieth Century.
He was seven years old when World War I broke out.
He was 22 when the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began.
He got his job with ConEd in 1930 and was soon going to be laid off. When told of this, he proceeded to the office of a Vice President and told him he couldn’t be laid off. My mother was pregnant with my sister Maureen, their first of five children.
The VP had a heart and called a supervisor and instructed him to put my father on the paint gang.
Pop painted everything in sight. He would paint these huge gas holders (you may remember the Elmhurst gas tanks) higher, hanging on a scaffold.
Pop saw Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Ford, and Mickey Mantle.
I even took him to his last game and the last season at the Babe Ruth Yankee Stadium before it was renovated.
I took him to see Joe Willie.
What a life!
But all of that meant nothing compared to the superstars that made up his family: his children, grandchildren, and most of all, our mother, Bett.
It was Mickey (or Mick) and Bett to all their adult friends and neighbors.
Pop loved to laugh and make other people laugh along with him. One Christmas, he put an inverted lampshade on his head, imitating a chef as he carried a huge platter of turkey to the dining table.
When I told him we were moving out to the Hamptons, he was visibly angry. I guess he thought I was abandoning him. He asked me what I would do for a job, and I told him I would commute on the Long Island Rail Road. He responded:
“Don’t think you’ll be staying with me!”
Little did he or I know that a short three years later, I would be doing just that as I started law school in 1986 and lived with him four days a week until I graduated in 1990.
The first night I stayed with him, I put a few sofa cushions on the floor, wrapped a sheet around them, and went to sleep.
When he woke me up the following day, I saw him shake his head.
I came home that night after class, and he told me that he had taken the subway down to Macy’s at Herald Square and bought a $900 sofa bed.
He was 79 years old.
He begged the salesman to expedite the order because “My son is sleeping on the floor.”
It was clear to all of us that my staying with him provided much joy and purpose to Pop. He was proud to help put me through law school.
He taught all his children what it meant to be a parent, and we have all tried to emulate him.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and my mother.
I only wish he was here to have a slice of strawberry shortcake for his birthday.