Sunday, June 17, 2012


What I remember about my father:

He kept a bottle of Anisette in the refrigerator and took swigs of it when he had a cold.

He bought me the black patent leather party shoes I coveted, which my mother wouldn't let me wear for fear that they would ruin my feet.

He used to hawk spitballs out of the '53 Buick.

When we had roast chicken, he would finish off the bird, then wash and dry the wishbone for us to pull.  When he broiled steak, he'd assert that a little burnt fat was good for you.  Once, family members complained that the Thanksgiving turkey was pink and undercooked; he said that was so it wouldn't be all dried out when reheated for leftovers.

One evening he took me to a narrow lot between two buildings downtown that had been turned into a trampoline attraction.  Two rows of trampolines flush with the ground.  We jumped around in our socks for about an hour.  It was swell.

He worked full time at the Avco factory, where they made aircraft engines, but he also had part-time jobs on the side.  On Saturday mornings he drove a canteen truck, and sometimes I went with him.  He'd always give me one of the cherry popovers.  He once attempted to start a rubber stamp business; headquarters was a bench in the basement across from the coal bin, where I'd hang out with him and test the stamps.  Every so often he'd shovel some coal into the furnace during cold months. 

Frank was fond of wrestling on TV.  With beer. Schaefer.  He would let me have a couple of sips from his can.

When he took me to the package store with him, I agonized over my voting for Miss Rheingold every year.

He had a tattoo of an anchor on his arm, which is puzzling, since he had been in the Army.

He was the polka king.  

My mother couldn't dance because of her heart condition.  They fought instead.  Once, hot soup from the pressure cooker was thrown.  It wasn't pretty.  I was 5 or 6 years old, and I recall crying and screaming bloody murder from the other room for them to stop.

My parents eventually got divorced and, after a few years, my father remarried.  He introduced me to Mary by having us all sit in his car parked in my mother and stepfather's driveway.  This mild-mannered Italian woman became his polka queen.  The photo below was taken on one their visits to me in Columbus, Ohio when I was a graduate student at Ohio State in the late '70s.  After driving 13 hours from Connecticut, my father bounded in laughing, toting his portable bar.  

"Who wants a highball?" he announced to me and my boyfriend.  That was Frank in a nutshell.

Mary's a lovely woman who's now 91 and misses my father terribly--he died of colon cancer over 30 years ago.  Perhaps a little too much of the burnt fat?

I believe I have his eyes and, less fortunately, his lips.

I wish he'd been able to protect me from my mother.

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