A Sunday Stroll with My Dad
Since I have written birthday blogs for my children in the past, it is time to honor my dad with one now as he just celebrated a pandemic style 94th birthday. He did it by getting his second Covid-19 Moderna vaccine, and then being forced to lay low in case of side effects. Note: just a little fatigue and weakness, but no fever, soreness or headache. I always say he is bionic and he really is as I had a more intense reaction than him!
Dad is doing well and living in an independent living apartment in Houston near me. He is quite a character now. He is feisty, stubborn, and has a sense of humor and a desire for fun – playing poker, listening to music and concerts, and even dancing are up his alley. I grew up absorbing his love of music and we are so alike in that trait. (See photo of him getting in on the dancing action at my last birthday party below.)
He was much more of a quiet introspective sort when I was growing up. His gentle nature was so appreciated as our household could be quite volatile at times.
He was a hard worker and I did not get to see him as much as I would have liked because he worked long hours at his main job for a vending catering company as their service manager, and then he seemed to always have a part time job as well. He moonlighted as a cab driver during most of my formative years, out of financial necessity.
Each Saturday in young childhood, I was farmed out to my maternal grandparents for the day where I was spoiled and had a grand time, including visits to an amusement park on many of those days, and always hot dogs or spaghetti for dinner, my favorites. There was plenty of chocolate bars too for the taking. My Pop-pop and Nanny prepared the household for what I enjoyed. The only downside was having to watch their TV programs with them, including Lawrence Welk.
On Sundays, my dad was sometimes available. In the Spring and Summer, I would listen to Phillies games over the radio with him and learned to be a girl who just loved the sport of baseball. He would play his comedy albums on the stereo to unwind. I remember Mickey Singer and Alan Sherman records playing all the time, and also Nichols and May, and Shelley Berman. He would just laugh and laugh no matter how many times he heard these records. Music was always on too. I love comedy like he did, along with my love of music. I have him to thank for many of my interests.
The best part about Sundays with my dad, and here I am going back in time remembering all of the scenery and feelings associated with this as I have a photographic (Eidetic) long term memory and can time travel, was our Sunday morning strolls.
These strolls had a purpose. They were to get the usual Sunday morning brunch foods for our family and bring them home and then gorge. This meal every Sunday morning was made up of bagels and smoked fishes. I still adore these foods to this day. When I was quite young, he would hold my hand, and I would feel very safe and protected with that gesture.
Since my dad’s favorite deli was only two walking blocks away near Benner on Castor Avenue, we would walk there rather than drive. With two of us to carry our bundles, we did not need to drive. This deli, which I can picture to this day along with the owners, was a mitzvah (or good deed) of sorts to frequent as it was owned by Holocaust survivors. There was no genial chit-chat with the woman behind the counter, just the order given and received.
The woman had a very sad, worried, and dour look on her face and she spoke with a thick Yiddish accent. With her special knife, she thin sliced the Nova lox we ordered each week, with a limp barely usable arm and a noticeable number tattoo on that same arm. She always seemed in pain, and I assumed it was because she had to slice lox all day long with an arm that she had to drag along that barely worked; but I learned about the Holocaust in college, and now I look back and consider her heroic at plodding along in life the way she did after what she must have gone through. The tattoo made me curious on many occasions back in these days and I asked my dad repeatedly what it was but he would not discuss that horror with me. He would dismiss my questions with a “never mind” type of response. When my dad did not want to answer something, there was no use in pursuing the topic.
After the lox order, I was allowed to look in the glass case and choose a little chub of whitefish, which was my personal favorite. (And is to this day) Sometimes Dad splurged and ordered a bit of sable too – his favorite smoked fish.
When we finished at the deli, we would walk across the street to a bakery where we purchased bagels and crumb cake for dessert. And with these treasures in our arms, we would walk the two blocks back home and enjoy our Sunday morning feast.
***Since I did not get too many moments alone with my dad, these were special times for me that I look back on now as a great memory. He did take me to exactly one Phillies game at Connie Mack stadium, and it was exactly one because it was pricey to go and he worked two jobs just to make ends meet. But that one game was during the best year in baseball in Phillies history up to that point, with a bunch of superstars. I will never forget that feeling, and stayed a lifelong baseball fan. It may interest some to know I ended up working for the Phillies hillies during college and graduate school, and that is a blog you can read here if this is news to you – most of my blog readers have heard all that before!
One of my dad’s greatest memories of me, aside from me treating him to lots of Phillies games while I worked there, was when Chris Wheeler, an announcer on the radio and my former boss mentioned my name as a Phillies girl and gave a shout-out to my dad as a favor to me on my request. Dad called me up so excited when that happened, and I was so relieved he was listening during that moment in time. (Dad’s preferred way to enjoy a game was via radio up until about 20 years ago when he discovered cable television.)
Of course now that we live in the same city, we have made loads of new memories and there are still more to come. We celebrate all of the Jewish holidays together – I am the matriarch now. And one of those new memories is bringing him (Pre-Pandemic) to his favorite deli here, Kenny & Ziggy’s – a real New York style deli with delicious smoked fishes flown in daily from New York.
It isn’t always easy juggling a stubborn 94 year old man’s care and needs along with my own super busy life including grandchild care, as well as full time work, but as everyone says to me, “I am lucky to still have him around.” And thus he will be enjoyed in person, along with my fond memories of the past, for as long as possible.