May 2 marks Dad’s birthday, if he was here I would have called him to ask how it feels to be 94.
There’s a challenge in trying to imagine your parents as kids. You come into the world, and there they are, fully formed. Dad was always just Dad, but there’s the few photos I have of him longer ago in a pre-Dad era.
That one at the top I understand is him one some amusement park ride at Coney Island. He looks so boyish there, and I’d bet that is his little sister, my Aunt Eve (also deceased even longer ago), likely posing for my grandparents (ditto, gone).
What he dreamt of, what kept him busy as a boy, what he worried about, what he most loved to do… I don’t know. There’s really no one left to ask the family stories; my sisters and I are perched in the upper limbs of the family tree.
He did have an early nude scene, this classic had a date of 1927 for baby Morris.
I cannot say I see his defined features, the ones I remember of the dark tanned skin (hence his nickname “Blackie”), the bushy side burns, this dark hair, and hair everywhere, his chest, shoulders, back.
A defining moment for young Dad was the story I heard a few times, I thought he was 9 at the time, playing on the streets of Newark New Jersey in the winter. There was a huge pile of snow, and the game as king of the hill. Dad got pushed hard off the pile and hit his head hard on the pavement. It was serious, the headaches from that plagued him into adult hood. Many weekends he was unable to get out of bed because of the pain.
At my Mom’s house I found the doctor’s bill for his operation — $40. Oh it says “final payment” in 1938, which might mean it was paid out over a long time, as I calculate this happened in 1935.
I have a bit of audio recorded in 1994 where my grandmother tells the story, there’s a bit of Dad’s voice, some of the only recordings I have.
There is this photo of teen Dad, with his own father. Dad as a teenager. He sure looks like one. His father, the grandfather Abraham I never knew (but was named for), looks a bit stern. But what do you really know of a moment in time snapped by a camera?
And another found photo my Mom had, a proof one from his high school last year- he’s got that serious stare and a bit of a Desi Arnez look.
That’s not much of a photo record of Young Dad, but it’s more than nothing.
If anything defined him, beyond his quiet, unquestionable love of his family, was his devotion to caring for his green lawn. After decades of pushing a lawnmower at the family home in Baltimore, in his retirement years, he achieved his dream of a riding lawnmower.
Hence later when it was time to get an email address, his choice for a Juno account was one that had “Lawnman” in it. Just for kicks, I just emailed “him” a happy birthday message. I wonder if old emails just go out into space.
Alas, no. Stupid internet (actually I do remember we closed out his account).
It was somewhat in honor of Dad, that Cori and I did the opposite today; we removed a big chunk of the front grass (we had a good start Friday from two brothers, both her students). Maybe I am anti-lawnman.
We have plans for a front native plant garden, a brick patio, and stuff growing around a giant old fashioned wooden wagon Cori found for me.
Dad would never be upset about ripping out grass and he would be so keen to hear about our landscaping. That was something that we did bond over as young Alan and young dad both grew older.
There was never disapproval from him in anything I did; I always knew I could count on his quiet support no matter what I did.
I never knew young Dad, and as he passed away only at 72, there was not much to know of old Dad. He was just Dad.
Happy 94th birthday, “old man” –that was how we talked on the phone, he’d call me “Junior” and I’d call him “Senior”