May I reminisce for a moment about my dad …
He was 38 years old when he killed himself in an single-vehicle automobile accident. Just a couple months shy of his 39th birthday.
He was devilishly handsome. I have photos of him in his army uniform from WW2, his high school graduation form, and a picture of him in a plaid sportcoat with his fedora at a rakish angle taken just a few months before he died.
He was a drunk. I didn’t know that at the time, but later-in-life conversations with my mother revealed that. The night before he died, they had been at a party and he’d had too much to drink and they’d argued and so he’d driven off in a huff — “Going back to Kansas” — and never
He was fun. I have these 4-year-old and 5-year-old memories of being in my dad’s T-Bird with him, he would let me shift the gears. We went hiking in the desert, he and my late older brother. He taught me about the desert and about boating on Lake Mead. We had an electric train set that always went around the Christmas Tree — we put tinsel on the tracks and it made sparks when the train went over it. (Of course, tinsel was metal in those days, not mylar.)
He was an accountant, a CPA, president of the state CPA association. He was smart. He did audits of the casinos for the state of Nevada. On Saturday mornings he would take me with him to the casinos to pick up the weekly books for review (we let my mom sleep in on Saturdays). I remember the people in the casinos. Early Saturday mornings, dressed in long elegant evening gowns and tuxedos — you don’t see that now! I met Joe E Brown, Joe Lewis … hell, I’ve even met the Rat Pack … somewhere there is a picture of me at four years of age sitting on Sammy Davis Jr’s lap. My dad was a very early civil rights advocate — he was a fan of “Negro” entertainers — Cab Calloway was his favorite band leader — and thought it wrong they were excluded from the Vegas hotels and casinos. So he and colleagues invested in and built a hotel casino named “The Monte Carlo” where blacks weren’t excluded. Of course, it was in some ways both ahead of and behind its times and failed and he lost a ton of money.
He was a war hero. I have his purple heart and his bronze star citations from WW2. He was a corporal in the artillery and was badly wounded doing his job as a forward spotter.
He was my dad. I only got to know him a little bit. I wish I’d had more time with him. Hell, I wish I’d had more time with my mom, who died in 1999, with my brother who died in 1993, and with my stepdad who died in 2004. But mostly, I wish my kids had known their grandfather.
My man I know named Adrian O’Connor owns a B&B in the town of Doolin in Co. Clare, Ireland, and is a folk musician. I believe he was born in England of an Irish immigrant father. He sings this really great song about returning to Ireland with his father; I think he wrote it. It makes me tear up whenever I listen to Adrian sing it. I never had the chance to return home with my dad. If you have the chance, talk to your folks, go home with them, listen to their stories, cherish them. Because once the chance to do so is gone, “sure, it’s lost and gone for ever.” (as Phil Coulter sings in “The Town I Loved So Well”).
Thanks for letting me ramble on….