Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On the plus side—fond memories of my family: Sundays in the Car with Dad

A few months ago, reading Z's tales of woe in trying to get her autistic son a decent education, I was inspired to respond with a post on raising a child with disabilities, to which Z responded with her own series on the same subject, to which I responded with a few more posts that ended up being yet another series on the subject. I guess I'm still "riffing" off of Z, because I noticed her post showing the other side of her relationship with M (see her Friday, July 22, 2005 post, "The Story of M," at
Friday July 22nd 2005, and thought, "Hmm, maybe it's time I showed the other side of my relationship with my family."

And so, without further ado:

Sundays in the Car with Dad

In his day, my father was a very hard-working man. He often held two, and even three, jobs to try to make ends meet.

One of the jobs that he had when we were teens was delivering newspapers on weekends. And, since the job was much easier to do when there was a second person helping him, one of us always rode in the "suicide seat," rolling the newspapers and stuffing them into the roadside newspaper boxes so that Dad wouldn't have to get out of the car, which made the job go much faster. I have fond memories of the Sundays we spent riding around together.

In his day, my father was a song and dance man. He loved to listen to his records whenever he had an opportunity, and could often be seen breaking into a quick soft-shoe routine near the record player. Though I didn't inherit his ability to listen to music and do other things at the same time—I'm working on it—I, along with my two brothers, did inherit his musical ear. (My sister was not so lucky—she inherited Mom's ear, and poor Mom can barely sing on key.) There's even a rumor that he was offered an opportunity to sing in the Fred Waring Choir and turned it down, presumably either because he felt he needed to stay put to keep an eye on his widowed mother or because he felt he couldn't make a sufficient living as a singer.

I also inherited his dancing feet, though not necessarily his style. In his day, Dad was an excellent ballroom dancer. Unfortunately, Mom was not. But put Dad on the dance floor with his sister B., and boy, could the two of them cut a rug together! I've never quite mastered ballroom dancing, but I enjoyed my ballet lessons as a child and teenager, and I'm sure that I can attribute whatever skill I have as a folk dancer to my dear olde Dad.

I do regret that Dad never took us girls into his workshop—he was pretty handy, a trait that I did not inherit. (Ours was a relatively non-sexist household for its time, but still, it was the fifties and sixties.) He hung suspended acoustic-tile ceilings, blocked off some free space with sliding doors to create large clothes closets in the two bedrooms than were large enough to accommodate them, and—his masterpiece—enclosed the stairs leading to the second floor in wood paneling backed by bookshelves. Though the wall did put the kabosh on my sister and me making dramatic entrances down the stairs when our dates arrived, I will always cherish my memories of the hours I spent sitting on the stairs reading.

Here's a letter that he wrote to us kids some twenty years ago. The minute we got our first computer, I typed it in, for fear that something might happen to it in the bank vault. Now, I'm putting it on the Internet. It's part of my yerushah, my inheritance from my father, and I'll cherish it as long as I live.

Handwritten letter from my father to all four kids, with P.S. for [the Punster] and [the Young Scientist], herein quoted in its entirety, as this is irreplaceable in case of fire in the bank vault:

To My Children

Erev Father's Day and I am thinking, reminiscing and smiling.

Just like skipping rope, my memories are jumping thru 'salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper' topped off with strawberry short cake.

This 'dad' is well aware that raising our four kids wasn't easy and was sometimes very trying, yet, I recall instead, their constant curiosity, their need (even demand) for answers. Their noses in books and a variety of music floating thru the rooms of our small home.

Four different personalities under one roof.

Four different brands of humor which allowed little room for morbidity and made each mealtime so light and so very digestible.

I fondly recall the many discussions around the dining room table plus some pretty heavy arguments and to this day I'm not sure I ever came out a winner.

Would I ever do it again? Would I care and dare to once again raise four kids like you? You Bet Your Sweet Bippi I would!!

To you, my children, I thank you for the privilege of parenthood and with deep gratitude in my heart I say 'Shehecheyanu' for allowing those wonderful years and bringing me, with health to reach this day so I may say,
I Love You Dearly

To you, my son and grandson,
I want you to know, you have brought much joy and pride into our lives and have added a dimension of love I am unable to express with words.


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