Here is a photo of my insanely young parents holding their first born, my brother Bruce. My father is 22 years old and my mother is 20. The picture was taken by my grandfather and I am stunned to realize that as he is standing behind that Kodak Brownie Camera in 1954 he is exactly the age I am now. Oy.
This is the first Father’s Day I’ve spent in Chicago since I moved away twenty years ago this week. We’re here for two weeks which is the longest I’ve ever been back. Much has changed in this city and in me during the past two decades and yet being in these surroundings it’s all too easy for me to regress back to childhood patterns and neuroses.
We’ve been going through a treasure trove of family memorabilia that my sister recently uncovered, priceless stuff we didn’t even know existed. Box after box of slides, photographs, journals, and school papers that are helping me fill in some of the missing chunks of my past. I'm finding it a challenge to reconcile my current version of my childhood with what I see on these yellowing documents and decaying images. I can’t wait to get my hands on a scanner. (Be afraid...be very afraid.)
In the meantime, it’s nice to spend Father’s Day with my dad. He’s had 52 Father’s Days since that photograph above was taken and deserves all the accolades that will be bestowed on him today.
My dad never knew his own father and had virtually no decent male role models growing up except his older brother Willie who was like a father to him after their mother was institutionalized. My father grew up very poor and started working like a dog at a young age. Even though he often worked out of our home, he was always busy trying to support his family. If we went on a family outing to downtown Chicago or to a movie or to the zoo, my father would drive us there and pick us up, but he rarely was able to join us. It was a sacrifice he now regrets and he still brings up an essay I once wrote that began "All I remember of my father when I was growing up is the back of his head," a reference to his role as family chauffeur. But despite his guilt, I can say that it would be impossible to find a more loving, compassionate, caring father or grandfather on the planet. All the more amazing when you think of his own childhood that was so full of pain and trauma. The photo above shows my dad this week with my first born. Even though Leah has spent all of her life in southern California, she announced on the plane that when she goes to any other city she feels like a tourist but when we come to Chicago she feels like a true native.
More to come from this great city…