Memories of my Father …
In this photo Left to Right: My cousin Carol, My cousin Sandy, My cousin Michael in the front row on the polka dotted chair is ME and next to me is my cousin little Pete. The woman on the far left I don’t know and the man on the right with the beer bottle on the tray table is my father’s father Al.
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This photo was taken a LONG TIME AGO. Look how little I am there. This is in the back yard of our then home on Kennedy Drive in New Britain Connecticut. This is my first home memory it is where I was born as well my brother. We lived in this house until I completed first grade and we moved to Florida.
The house was a 3 bedroom raised ranch house with a nice front lawn and spacious back yard with the requisite swing set in the back and a sand pit under the second floor balcony off the back of the house. We had a basement that was well used and there was a huge staircase that led from the front door to the main level of the house.
Since tomorrow is Father’s Day, I thought I would get on the WordPress bandwagon and write something about my father.
From my earliest memories my father worked for Fafnir Bearings in downtown New Britain, and my father’s parents worked at the original Stanley Works tool makers just up the block from where my father worked. I remember visiting his work place on several occasions.
There were a few Holidays and snowy Christmases. I remember the holiday parties between all my extended family’s homes. My mother’s parents lived not far from our home and my father’s parents were not very far either. All of which could be triangulated in one neighborhood. I could walk from one location to another. And did quite often because we walked to school in those days, up the hill, in the snow, blessedly with our shoes. (if you get that reference, you get a gold star!)
Alcoholism is something that permeated our lives. As you can see above, my grandfather always had alcohol of some sort within arms reach of where ever he stood or sat down inside or outside the house. My father was not that alcoholic but he was an alcoholic. And I can say that because of the kind of man he was to his family.
Both my father and grandfather(s) were functional alcoholics, which meant that they could handle a job, wives and children. In hindsight, reading the Big Book, they really fit the bill in many stories.
In between the alcohol and the living of life there were bright spots. My father was a good man. He provided well above everything that we ever needed, at any given time in our young lives. He worked with his hands. He was a builder of things. Later on in life he lived vicariously through us when we entered scouts, much later on in the story.
I remember the holidays that he got up on the roof and hung Christmas lights, that theme would repeat itself over and over for the rest of our family life. Where ever we lived, there were always Christmas lights.
When we moved from New Britain to Homestead Florida it was a step down. We moved from a really big house to a little duplex in a shoddy little neighborhood on the edge of the Krome Avenue fields of South Florida. (we would learn that these fields were the bread basket of South Florida).
My father had movers move our stuff. But in between point A and point B, many of our things were stolen from the truck. It was a great loss to my father, in his bid for a successful relocation, we got hit on the way down.
We lived in that duplex for a year before my father decided to grow the family fortune and we moved into the city proper and we moved into another 3 bedroom house that we lived in from my second grade until 6th grade.
During those years there were plenty of family visits. Snowbirds from the North coming to bask in the Florida sun during the winters. Even family from Canada would come down to visit. Those were very happy times. My mother’s side of the family were from Quebec, where I now live.
There was the annual summer trip from Florida to Connecticut during the summers. Sometimes my brother and I would fly and other times, my father would pack the entire family into the all famous “family station wagon” and we would make the pilgrimage to Connecticut by car. And those were adventures.
We visited all points North on the way. The all popular South of the Border on the border of South and North Carolina. We drove the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and tunnel system. That freaked me out. To this day I have an aversion to bridges. But I am not averse to crossing the Jacque Cartier Bridge here for the fireworks festival during the summer.
We spent time in Washington D.C. We toured the Smithsonian and my father made his pilgrimage to the Viet Nam memorial in Washington D.C. That was a great road trip. We toured the Congress and House of Representatives. It was all very exciting.
And to this day, when I hear music from the 1970’s and 1980’s I can close my eyes and see in my minds eye, they exact place we were at when that particular song was playing.
We lived in that house on 33rd Street and 63rd avenue until I hit the sixth grade. Well, half way into it really. My father decided that it was time to move house and at that point we kids were put on notice to help my parents pick the next house we would live in. I remember that house hunt.
We looked at several houses all in the same locale much father South than where we had lived. We looked at what we called the Power’s House. It was a 3 bedroom house with a large garage, a yard FULL of fruit trees. We grew bananas, mango, avocados, oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons.
The house had a pool. That was the big ticket item in my father’s upwardly mobile move up the social ladder. We fell in love with that house. And so that became our next address from my sixth grade through to my adult life.
Our family had arrived…
A lifetime of working and raising a family all paid off in this stately house that would house memories and tragedies. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew blew through south Florida and demolished our home. My parents were up North at the time of the storm and when they finally got to come home, there wasn’t much home to come home to.
I did my best to serve my family during those very dark times. My parents lived in a travel trailer while they rebuilt the house from top the bottom.
My father provided for us and we wanted for nothing. But the trade off was that we had to deal with a growing problem with alcoholism. And it didn’t only affect my father, but my mother as well and all of the family business and social friends. Alcohol was a social lubricant.
A favorite story I like to tell is of the one night that my mother’s brother and wife were down from Canada and the four of them were drinking at the dining room table and they were getting quite drunk. And seeing my mother crawl across the floor into the kitchen where she tried to fit a GLAD sandwich baggie into the tall garbage can. Try as she might, she couldn’t get that bag to fit the garbage can.
Then they got in the car with us kids and we went to one of those BIG BOX stores that you went in and took a clipboard and wrote down the call numbers of what you wanted and they got the stuff from the back and delivered it to you as you cashed out… My aunt is walking around the store grabbing kitchen utensils and then she walked out of the store with these spoons and forks, and nobody was the wiser, and nobody stopped her on the way out …
My father provided all of our needs like I said. My brother’s sports stuff, I was a protege organist. My father spent a great deal of money to buy me successive sized organs as I graduated up the ranks of my musical education. I had music lessons. I had recitals. I was really good. And had I kept on with that talent, who knows where I might have been today.
My father’s pride and joy was Christmas holidays when I would entertain family parties with holiday music. It was truly joyful. It made my father’s heart sing. His favorite tune was “The Entertainer…” You know the tune don’t you???
I played that song hundreds upon hundreds of times. It eventually wore on me. And It was good and bad. Because as much as my father loved us, he also hated me with a severe passion. One night my father got drunk and threw the organ seat at my mother. My brother jacked him up against that wall that night and threatened him with death if he ever hit my mother again.
So he came after me …
With all the good things I can tell you about my father. There is a trade off to all the bad things my father dished out on us as kids. I’ve shared this before that from an early age, my father’s words to me were always the same…
” YOU WERE A MISTAKE AND SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN!!!”
He beat those words into me for the whole of my life. When his alcoholism reached a fever pitch I swore that I would never play that organ again and that he could take it back to the music sellers and get his money back. I never played another note in my life.
My parents were devout Catholic. And after my brother was born and my mother got a tubiligation they were excommunicated from the church officially. And it wasn’t until I made my Holy Confirmation in tenth grade that they met with a priest and were absolved of their mortal sin.
My father did not take well to my coming out. He use of colorful language with others as well as with family and friends, he liked the words homosexual and the N word. He was a equal opportunity offender. So I never came out to my parents. I moved away when I thought the time was right. But we did come to blows over homosexuality later on in my life.
I don’t know where my father learned to hate like he did. It surely did not come from the church. And my father rarely if ever touched a bible. But he knew what he knew. And he had a terrible secret in his closet that never saw the light of day and when he figured out that I was gay, that was the end of things for us. Even worse when I got sick and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. He always believed that I got what was coming to me. And that I could die like all my friends.
My father was a good man.
My father was a bad man.
My father was a man.
The last time I saw my father and mother was on New Years Day 2001.
I had just worked an all night shift at a bar. And got home around 9 a.m. And my phone rang. My parents had been in Miami all weekend and were on their way home to Sarasota, where they live today. So they dropped by and I offered to take us all out for brunch, but my father declined the offer.
I had twenty minutes to visit with my mother while he waited in the car with the engine running. I don’t remember that conversation. But we walked around the block where I lived then and where I would eventually get sober.
My father gathered his wife and drove off …
That was the last time I saw either one of my parents …