Dreams From My Father November 10, 2008Posted by voolavex in Politics & Religion.
Tags: Boston, Catholic, cicil rights, Civil Rights, Elanor Roosevelt, Irish, JFK, Kennedy, March on Washington, metrosexual, Mt. Vernon, Negroes, New Rochelle, NYC, Obama, Potomac, speakeasy, Spivy's Roof, war, War College, Washington D.C., Washington Post
I had a wonderful father. The beliefs he offered me and showed me have stayed with me to this moment in time. He was a Boston Irish Catholic intellectual with all the baggage that carries. Short of cash and far too smart for his own good at a time when university was for the very rich., he never got his degree. He always said his love of books was due to the fact his parents both worked in a book bindery and stayed employed during the Depression. He passed it on to me. He was a serious smart ass and a great wit. He drank. He was a snob and a social climber – the networker of all time. He was a metrosexual before the word was ever coined. He had quite a few jobs that made great stories. At eight he learned to drive and smoke. He drove a hearse to and from the family speakeasy because he looked “mature” and they needed a sober driver. He rappelled off the walls from under his bedroom window and transported bathtub gin back and forth. He told me the secret of a good bathtub gin was Red Lion Juniper Juice. I was young enough to be impressed. He was a butler. He went to Washington DC to work as a copywriter for the Washington Post and he was good. This was before we entered the war. His cronies were all admen and crackpots and they ran in a pack. Not chasing women but more after the joy of the times they were in and the place they were in them. When in NYC he frequented Spivy’s Roof. One day he wandered through the public rooms of the White House and saw Eleanor Roosevelt in her office. He said hello and the next thing he knew they had a standing lunch date. He revered her and I have no doubt he entertained her greatly. One night, drunk on a Potomac golf course near the War College one of his cronies played reveille on his trumpet at 3 a.m.; the lights went on and the lot of them staggered like jackrabbits to get outta’ town. He met and courted my mother in 1942 and two people could not have been less suited to one another – but it was war time and every GI wanted a sweetheart. He had been drafted (bad vision and flat feet did not keep him out of this man’s army) and after resisting Sam’s call he finally showed up with a pair of boxers and a quart of gin. During the war they married and it went south from there but not before they had me and Boston apartment full of Heywood Wakefield furniture. He wrote a book about his experiences in the Army and it was indeed published. I have always been proud of this achievement because he was so happy about it. He was an officer and a gentleman. We’ll skip the re-up and the wrong assignment and the subsequent divorce – it was dismal but I did eventually wind up living with father in New York City and thus began my education in 1958. My father was a Kennedy Democrat and rightly so. As he liked to remind people he was born 3 days and 26 miles from JFK in 1917. It didn’t take long for me to become just as enthralled.
During this period in my life my father sold Winfield China and his territory was New Rochelle and Mt. Vernon; his clients were middle class Negroes. He chose his territory. He often took me with him and as a consequence my only experience with the Black community as a young teen was lemonade, cookies and a serious caveat to be quiet and respectful. What I saw were working people with nice flats and good jobs. They didn’t seem very different to me than any other people. Civil rights occupied his conscience and troubled him deeply. From this I learned things I assumed everyone knew. I was angry when I found that was not the case.The March on Washington was my father’s march. And mine. He had a seat – spiritually – at every sit-in and our worst falling out was when I called him a bigot after he told me I couldn’t go to Selma. The reason: he was afraid white people would kill me. He taught me the N-word was the worst word a person could utter. His beliefs and moral outrage never left me and when Barack Obama ran for president I could imagine how my father would have felt. And I was sad because he didn’t live to experience this sublime moment in the advancement of his cherished thoughts. I know I voted for Obama, at least partly, as a result of my father’s wisdom. And I know that I cast my ballot for Obama and his platform from a deep and precious place – a place that would never have been born and never have flourished without the dreams from my father.