If you have been enjoying my blogs, then I must give some credit to my dad. He had a gift for storytelling and a knack for descriptive language like no one else. I’d like to think I inherited at least a small portion of his talent.
First, a brief description of my father. He was a salesman. He sold wallpaper, but if you ever asked him what he sold he would always say “himself”. He was a sincere salesman, which in most cases is an oxymoron, but not in his case. He had white hair, dressed impeccably, drove a huge Caddy and always had a cigarette in his hand. He traveled the country non-stop, yet most of my childhood memories include him sitting in his chair in our living room reading the newspaper- dressed to the nines, of course.
Here’s an example of how my father expressed himself. A typical dinner conversation would include: “Cecile (that’s my mom), I’ve eaten in 5 star restaurants throughout the country. I’ve dined where celebrities and royalty have dined, I’ve been to restaurants so exclusive they don’t even have a sign on the door, but none of those meals Cecile, none of those meals can compare to your meatloaf.” And the truth is, he truly meant it.
Back when I was in college we were on vacation in Hollywood Florida at the Diplomat hotel. It’s one of the very rare times I remember seeing my father in a bathing suit. Let’s just say he wasn’t the “outdoorsy” type. Picture a man in designer bathing trunks, a matching button down short sleeved top, a perfectly blow-dried comb-over, a black watch, gold bracelet and the palest skin ever seen outside of Antarctica. I remember him walking slowly toward us with a slight limp, even whiter from the 3 bottles of suntan lotion he put on… ”Cecile (long drag on the cigarette), Cecile, I’ve had impacted wisdom teeth, I’ve had my neck in traction, I’ve had my gall bladder removed, but nothing Cecile, can compare to the pain between my toes from these rubber thongs.”
Anyone who knows my father knows you can’t mention him without mentioning “the diner”. The Shore East Diner in Massapequa to be exact. Somehow, we always wound up at the diner. Even after a night on the town in the city, we found ourselves having coffee and hot chocolate at the diner. We would eat there every Saturday for lunch without fail. When my mother, sister and I would start complaining about the table we were seated at and my father would say, “For God’s sake, we’re not moving in!”
So, one time back in my twenties, my back went out and my sister had to take me to the emergency room. I remember lying on a table in the waiting room because I couldn’t sit upright. My sister bought me a hamburger, mashed potatoes and a donut from the hospital cafeteria. It was literally one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten (other than my mother’s meatloaf, of course). Shortly after, my parents arrived. They had been in the city having dinner. My mother was in her mink coat (not yet politically incorrect) buttoned up to her chin. It was 6
thousand degrees in the hospital but for some reason she refused take that coat
off. Finally at 2:00AM, after 4 long grueling hours and a huge needle stuck
into my back, it was time to go home. My sister wheeled me into the parking lot
with that look on her face that she was clearly tired of waiting on me. I had
that look on my face that one might have after getting a shot in her back. My
mother was still in her mink, her face beaded with sweat. My father took a puff
on his cigarette and said “Meet at the diner?” And, of course, we did.
Many years later my parents moved to Florida because, as Jerry Seinfeld puts it, it was the law. One of the last conversations my mother had with my father in the hospital after his heart attack was, “George, the girls are coming down”. He could barely speak, but whispered from under his oxygen mask, “That’ll be nice… just the four of us… like old times.” But my sister and I didn’t make it in time. He passed away while we were in flight. That was 15 years ago.
So in honor of Father’s Day - you guessed it- I’ll be going to the diner. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.